May Project: Geese Part 1

The third story in Sword and Sorceress VIII is Geese by Laurell K. Hamilton. Yes, it’s by that Laurell K. Hamilton. You would think with my love of Harry Dresden, Rachel Carson, and Mercy Thompson that Anita Blake and especially Merry Gentry would be regular reading for me but they aren’t. This is the first Hamilton I’ve read and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

This is the first of two posts bringing elements from the story to the May Project Setting setting.

Perhaps I had been a goose for too long. Perhaps it was time to become human again, but the desire was hazy. I was no longer sure why I wanted to be human. I could not quite remember the reason I had hidden myself among the geese.

Quote from Geese, copyright Laurell K. Hamilton.

The protagonist of the story begins it changed into the form of a goose. She is at the edge of losing her human identity and fully becoming a goose when she is shocked out of the form by an attack on children.  While contemplating as a goose at the beginning she mentions spending summers in the form giving it an apparently unlimited at will duration.  Clearly, though, the longer one stays in the form the more likely one is to never return from it, a common idea in folklore and fantasy stories.

Gelace’s Forms of Hiding
Magic-User Level 4
Duration: Unlimited (but see below)
Range: Self

The caster to shifts into the form of a normal animal smaller than herself.  The assumed form cannot have more hit dice than half the caster’s level (round up) nor may it have more than half mass than the caster.  The caster gains the physical capabilities and statistics of the new form but initially retains her mental abilities.  Special abilities the caster has, such as spell casting, are not available while in the changed form.  The caster does retain memorized spells while in the animal form despite their inability to cast spells (although, see below).  Any geas or quest spell on the caster becomes inactive while in the animal form but will immediately return in affect upon returning to human form.

The spell is unlimited duration in the sense that the caster may remain in the form as long as they desire.  However, prolonged form changes risk the caster’s mental abilities shifting from their original form to match that of the animal form.  To shift back to human form the caster must make a successful save versus spell.  A failure means the caster must wait at least a month before making another attempt to shift back.  They may gain a bonus to this saving throw by channeling a memorized spell into it.  They bonus is the spell level divided by 3, rounding to nearest (so at least a 2nd level spell must be sacrificed to gain any bonus).

While in animal Every month the caster spends in animal form she must make a save versus spell.  Every time the caster fails this roll they gain a cumulative -1 to their restoration saving throw.

History: The Ballad of Gelace and Lonan tells that Gelace  said to have spontaneously created this variation on the more common Polymorph Self trying to escape the death of her entire family at the hand of the Baron Madawoc.  After several years in hiding (a period unduplicated since) she returned and killed the Baron, gaining both her family’s land and Madawoc’s traditional lands for herself.

As per the licensing page the material in this box is available under Open Gaming License or the Creative Commons. While I prefer the Creative Commons because the text is based on OGL material I do not believe it is proper to offer this under the CC.

May Project: Wings of Fire Part 3

There is one list thing to take from this first tale in Swords and Sorceress VIII. Actually, it’s a pair of items.

“As you see,” said a new voice, female, with an undertone of petulance, “I plan my prisons well.”

“For the mages,” their captor said, gesturing grandly, “A cage which nullifies magic, with a lock that can only be opened with an ordinary key.” She held up the key hanging at her belt.”

“For the warrior, a prison that only magic can unlock.

Quote from Wings of Fire, copyright Mercedes Lackey

Cages of Joneky
Joneky, the first governor of Frjanci when the Chjinnee founded the city, trafficed in barbarian warriors and strange creatures with unique powers captured to serve as entertainment at the Emperor’s Court. Not one to be daunted by difficulties (or shy away from great amounts of coins) he extended his alchemical researches into locks of great ingenuity. His crowning achievement were the Cages of Joneky. The mystical crafts that fuel them require them to be made as a matched pair and they are most effective when joined together.

The Warrior’s Cage is locked magically. Once the door is shut to re-open it requires the casting of a magical spell. If the caster is keyed to it (see below) any spell, even a read magic, is sufficient to open it. If the caster is not keyed to it he must making a roll of 20+ on a d20 with the level of spell cast as a positive modifier and the level of diverted magic from it’s mate (see below) as a negative one. Spells that are specifically intended to open locks, such as knock give a modifier of twice their level. A caster can accumulate levels by casting spell after spell, but for every round a spell isn’t cast the accumulated modifier is halved. Multiple casters cannot combine the utility of their spells.

The Mage’s Cage is locked with a simple, but incredibly complex, mechanical lock. Attempts at picking the lock are at a penalty of +1 (d6 skills) or +16% (percentile skills) which doubles with successive retries after each failure. The cage’s true power, however, is the fact that it nullifies magic. Items within will not function. Spell casters lose all memorized spells. If the cage is within line of sight of its mate then the power of those spells are diverted to the Warrior Cage with the sum of their levels becoming the negative modifier. This stored power will drain away at the rate of one penalty point per day.

Attunement is accomplished by a spell caster intentionally placing himself inside the Mage’s Cage within one turn of locking the Warrior’s Cage. The caster must then, within 24 hours, cast spells to unlock the The Warrior’s Cage. If 24 hours pass before he successfully opens The Warrior’s Cage he must restart the process. If he opens it within 24 hours he will be attuned to The Warrior’s Cage and may easily open it. Only the mated Mage’s Cage can attune a caster to a given Warrior’s Cage.

Bleed Off is required for a Mage’s Cage to remain stable. Every time it tries to deactivate magic without it’s mate in line of sight it may explode. Role percentile dice and if the result is less than the total of levels being absorbed the cages explodes doing d6 damage per spell level absorbed to those outside the cage and within 20′ feet. Individuals within the cage are not harmed but still lose their memorized spells. Magic items do not add to and cannot by themselves cause this explosion nor can inherent spell like powers (although all of those are dampened by the cage.

As per the licensing page the material in this box is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License or the Open Gaming License. Choose the license which best suits your purposes but I prefer the Creative Commons.

May Project: Wings of Fire Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post of campaign materials inspired by the story Wings of Fire from

“She was born of magically talented parents, and given all she desired,” the Hawkbrother continued. “But she came to desire more and more, and her own small talent could not compass her ambition, until she discovered her one true gift-that she could steal spells from any, and use that power to weave those spells at no cost to herself. Thus she enriched herself at the expense of others, and the more power she had, the more she sought.”

Quote from Wings of Fire, copyright Mercedes Lackey

So, a mage that only learns spells by stealing them. While the idea of power stealing is common the specific idea of learning spells by stealing is kind of rare. I like it.

Spell Stealer
The spell stealer is a form of magical parasite. Born with the ability to channel magics they lack either the mental ability or determination to actually learn magical formulas. Instead, they steal spell knowledge directly for the minds of other magic users and clerics.

Except as noted below under spell casting, spell learning, and other abilities treat a spell stealer as a cleric for purposes of attacks, weapons and armor, spells per day, and saves. Treat them as a magic-user if, for some reason, you need to know XP to advance a level. Because of their lack of training and knowledge no magical research, item creation, or similar abilities are know by spell stealers.

Spell Casting: Because they are innate magic users and not learned or devoted ones spell stealers don’t memorize spells or maintain spell books. All their spells are kept in their head and selected as needed to cast. While this gives them some flexibility relative to magic-users and clerics they are still limited to a certain number of castings per day, reflecting their ability to control the energies coursing through them.

Spell Learning: Due to their inability to learn spells by devoted prayer or academic study spell stealers do just that, they steal spells directly from the mind of other magic users. Because they must hold all their spells in their head they are limited in the number they can know and lack absolute control over what they learn. The total number of spells of a given level a spell stealer can know is half the number that level they can cast per day divided by two.

Because of the method for “learning” a spell it is quite possible that a spell stealer may know a lower level spell than the slot might indicate, such as knowing spider climb as a third level spell instead of a first level one. Note, such higher level learning has no effect on the spells power, just how much power they must use to cast it. Finally, because they use the cleric spells per day table they cannot learn eight and ninth level magic user spells at all.

To learn a spell a spell stealer must cease and hold the head of a spell caster who has memorized a spell and lock their eyes. In combat this requires a to hit at -8 and in or out of combat the victim may save against spell to avoid the eye lock affecting the transfer. The transfer takes one round per level of spell being learned and if broke before then the stealer must save versus spell or take spell level d6 of damage. At the end of that time the stealer may select one spell the opponent knows to attempt to steal. Roll d20 + spell stealer’s level – spell level. On a roll of 15+ the stealer steals that spell. On a roll 6-14 a random spell memorized by the target is selected from all spells that are the level of the highest open slot of the stealer or lower. In this case regardless of level of the spell it will fill that highest open slot. On a roll of 4- no spell is stolen. Any stolen spell is immediately forgotten. Magic-user and clerical spells may be stolen.

If a spell is stolen the subject of the attack makes a saving throw against magic with a bonus of the spell stealer’s level if a specific spell is chosen. If the roll is failed the target suffers a level drain if level 2 or higher but not if level 1. This drain represents the mental damage suffered by having a spells ripped out of your head. The bonus on a specific spell being stolen represents the lessor damage by a controlled removal by an experienced stealer.

As per the licensing page the material in this box is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License or the Open Gaming License. Choose the license which best suits your purposes but I prefer the Creative Commons.

May Project: Wings of Fire Part 1

The second story in Sword and Sorceress VIII is Wings of Fire by Mercedes Lackey. At the risk of trashing what little old school cred I have I have to admit to enjoying a lot of Misty’s writing. My favorites were her Diana Tregarde novels of which there were only three due to poor sales although a novella appeared in a 2010 collection. There were two short stories about Diana originally written to be included in Stalking the Night Fantastic.

Wings of Fire is a Tarma and Kethry. While the main characters and broader setting elements aren’t easily transferable to the Grjeee setting (although some could fit the Maerr Idnn) I have found a few things I’d like to important at this early stage. The first is a spell.

The bird shrieked in alarm and shot skyward. Tamara cursed; Kethry was too busy trying to breathe.
It’s the paralysis spell, she thought even as she struggled to get more air into her lungs. But she couldn’t breathe in without first breathing out, and every time she did that the hand closed tighter on her chest. That’s-supposed-to-be-
A darkness that had nothing to do with the hour dimmed the moonlight, and her lungs screamed for air.
Blackness swooped in like a stooping hawk, and covered her.

Quote from Wings of Fire, copyright Mercedes Lackey.

Okay, you say lost spell and I hear campaign material. What we know is it is called the paralysis spell and it suffocates the victim to unconsciousness but not death. Because it is used to paralyzed both main characters to capture them it seems to follow the Hold Person and Hold Monster spells but it also causes damage but not fatally. It also seems to be general in effect.

Magic-User Level 6
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: 120’
This spell will render any living creature paralyzed. Targets of the spell are aware, but cannot breathe normally or take any actions, including speech. A successful save vs. magic will negate the effect. The spell may be cast at a single monster, which makes its save at -2, or at a group, in which case 1d4 of the creatures in the group may be affected.

The inability to breath will deal 1d6 damage per round but will not take the victim to negative hit points. If the victim reaches 0 hit points due to the spell’s damage he will fall unconscious.

A winged creature which is paralyzed cannot flap its wings and falls (if in flight at the time). A paralyzed swimmer can’t swim and may drown.

If a magic item or spell operates to partially negate the effects of paralysis, failure on the saving throw will have the effect of a Slow spell rather than completely immobilizing the target and will only cause 1d3 per round damage from breathing difficulty.

As per the licensing page the material in this box is available under Open Gaming License or Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. I prefer the Creative Commons license.

Monday Pointers: The I hate V-day Edition

D4:Sure, they had Chariots but did they have magic items
Over at Grognardia James M. makes an interesting, but justifiable, addition to his Pulp Fantasy Library: Chariots of the Gods. For those of you who aren’t survivors of the 70s this is the iconic “space aliens built the pyramids” book. It’s not the most interesting (I reserve that for The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago) but it is the iconic tome. If you want some science fantasy weirdness or an alternate conspiracy for your Mulder and Scully to run into it’s a great choice.

D6:Herb’s Horrendous Hiccups
Want a free copy of the next edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG? Well, come up with a prizing winning level one magic user spell. Even if you don’t come up with the winning entry you’ll have helped create a great resource of first level spells available under the OGL.

D8:My Memory, it is strange
Of course, the first ancient aliens appearance in the OSR to my memory was the heavy influence of Richard S. Shaver’s tales of underground mind controlling dero had on Scott’s World of Thool. Although the brilliant and very odd Thool is gone for a large part you can still find Shaver’s works online.

It’s been a short list today, but I’ve been busy. For those wondering where this weekend’s posts went, I screwed up and posted notes for upcoming entries, but starting this week Inspirational Art will start alternating with Inspired Creations which will draw on prior iterations of Inspirational Art for actual things I’m trying to use in game.

Speaking of in game, I’m looking to start an alternate Sunday evenings campaign set in The World After. Long term I’d like to start a third campaign as well for the alternate days featuring the latest ideas for A Demon Haunted World.

Finally, I hope to get a summary of the first four sessions of Crusade Beyond the Door up this week, hopefully followed by tomorrow’s fifth session.