Thursday, August 4, 2022

OSR: Spellcasting and Sorcery in the Empire

artist unknown

According to the Church of the Solar Emperor:

1000 years ago, when the Thousand Eyes breached the walls of it's prison and savaged the divine realm, the Gods fled in fear before it.  This led to the Thousand Eyes having nearly uncontested sway over the Earth, allowing it to destroy and desolate as it chose.  Yet even though the Thousand Eyes was the foulest of things, unspeakable and terrible to behold, there are always those who value power more than justice. 

These people swore themselves to the Thousand Eyes, becoming it's slaves in exchange for their lives and power in the world that it would create, after it finished destroying this new one.  Yet this new world of suffering and darkness was not to be.  Lore Corvallis descended from his throne and slew the monster, scouring the land of it's foul taint. 

The Thousand Eyes died, but it did not die alone.  In it's death-throes, whether motivated by violent spite or unthinking hatred, it reached out to those who it had touched in life and struck them with madness.  The remaining slaves of the Thousand Eyes thus went mad and wreaked destruction on the land until they were slain by the righteous servants of Lore. 

However, of all those who were afflicted, the worst were the Wizards.

The Sorcerer-Kings and the Karma Demons:

In the absence left by the Gods and the Thousand Eyes' death, many mad Wizards rose up to divide the land amongst each other.  These Wizards declared themselves Sorcerer-Kings and went to war with each other, trying to claim as much territory as they could.  Their wars drove them to innovate, releasing monstrous beasts and horrific experimental monsters against each other in an effort to dominate the world.

The devastation wrought by these wars cannot be understated- no war in recent or living memory can equal them in devastation and sheer carnage.  Many places still bear the scars of the war and certain regions are uninhabitable to this day.  The entire Nation of Mejax was erased, reduced to a wasteland populated by the degenerated experiments and forgotten weapons of the Kings. 

Yet for all the brutality and inhumanity of the Sorcerer-Kings, something even worse came after.  The Kings quickly discovered that what once was benign and merely reactive had become intelligent and hateful.  Magic itself, or at least, the method through which mortals could access it, had been tainted by the Thousand Eyes.  Now sorcerers who practiced the Arcane Arts could look forward to declining physical health, mental instability, mutation and spells exploding in their faces far more than normal.  But worst of all, practitioners accumulated a stain on their souls, a toxin that gradually drove them to madness, even as it warped their bodies and strengthened their talents. 

At first, this was a research problem, then a tool to be exploited.  Then the first King turned.  The Sorcerer-King Zarbin Vex suddenly transformed one night after casting a spell to light the candles by his bed.  He was twisted into an inhuman monster which only desired to feed on the flesh of mortals, especially young boys.

The monster thus crept from it's chambers and stole a spit boy from the servant's quarters and devoured him.  When morning came, some reported seeing something bizarre in the corridors that night, but no one paid any attention to the gossip of the skullery maids or one missing child.  And then another boy disappeared.  And then another.  Along with that, people started noticing that the King was acting oddly.

As might be expected, the monster's deception couldn't be kept up forever.  One night, he was caught by a group of servants and the local priest, armed with candles and ginseng oil, to drive off what they suspected was a ghost.  They were expecting a haunting- what they got instead was their first look at the King's new face.  The King slaughtered them and fled the castle, pursued by his own men.  He then haunted the hills of his own kingdom for three more years, before a group of mercenaries eventually tracked him down and slew him. 

And Zarbin was only the first.  Soon, other Kings began to undergo such metamorphoses.  Some were more destructive, others were less.  For example, the King of the Crystal Spire killed anyone he found inside the palace and any who entered, but never bothered to leave the place.  He was dealt with when his dwelling was destroyed with magical explosives.

Gradually, people began to adjust to this new reality, that those who consumed too heartily of the power of sorcery would be at risk of transforming into monsters driven to destroy and devour everything around them.  These new beings were named Karma Demons, for their twisting of a Wizard's blessings. 

But as sorcery was largely too beneficial to dispose of entirely, new measures were created to prevent the return of such Karma Demons.  In the Far West, among the savage huntsman, Magi travel with a warrior who is sworn to cut them down should they begin to transform or show signs of instability.  Depending on the strength of the Magi, this can be one warrior or many dozens.  In the Immaculate Islands, sorcery is generally banned, barring certain exceptions.  Instead, those with magical talent practice shamanism there, making pacts with spirits or allowing them to temporarily possess their bodies in exchange for power. 

And in the Empire, the Dava were created.

The Dava:

The Dava [da-VAH] are those with magical talent who are enslaved and bound through use of magical compulsion.  They are taken from whatever circumstances they are found and marked with sigils of control and obedience, the glyphs carved into their flesh, covering all of the major chakras.  Copies of these markings are then inscribed on clay tablets and bound to the Dava through a blood ritual.  Once the bonding is completed, these tablets are placed inside of a Spirit-Chain, a magical device strapped to the forearm.

Dava also usually have their heads shaved and their scalps and faces tattooed with marks of slavery.  Some of these tattoos aid the compulsion of the Spirit Chain, but mostly they are there to identify a Dava for what it is and prevent them from ever hiding what they are. 

Through the use of a Spirit Chain, a Dava-shir [da-VAH-sheer] can control a Dava with almost perfect obedience.  They can command the Dava at any distance, though closer is better.  They can sense a Dava's emotions and physical sensations, albeit faintly.  If a Dava feels pain, it does not affect the Dava-shir.  Dava-shir can also use their Spirit Chains to inflict sensations upon a Dava, anything from toe-curling pleasure to agonizing pain. 

Dava-shir themselves must be magically talented to use a Spirit Chain, though only a scrap of talent is needed to utilize a Spirit Chain.  To a person without the Talent, it is just a clunky metal accessory. 

Dava-shir can often grow close to their Dava, who they regard as faithful servants or highly intelligent pets.  It is considered a high honor to be selected as a Dava-shir, and a grave responsibility.  Not just because it grants the Dava-shir the ability to command the Dava, but also because Dava are very expensive.  To own a Dava is a sign of great wealth and is a privilege restricted to the Nobility, not that commoners could afford to buy a Dava anyway, even if they could. 

Most Dava are owned by the Nobles and deployed for purposes of war.  Dava trained in magics that strengthen allies or those that can heal wounds are highly prized by commanders, almost as much as Dava equipped with spells designed to obliterate enemy formations and break the morale of opposing soldiers. 

Besides their obvious military applications, Dava also assist the Priests of the Fifth Order in their hunt for rogue Magi and magic-wielding traitors.  Nobles who can afford them also keep them around as bodyguards and household servants.

Common Types of Dava and their Spell-lists:

Combat Dava are assigned to assist armies and companies in battle.  

Combat Dava Spell List:


1- Chain Lightning: see below
2- Circle of Power: see below
3- Create or Destroy Water
4- Fireball
5- Heat Metal
6- Lucky
7- Portal
8- Snow Storm
9- Steel Intangibility
10- Stone to Mud
11- Sunshower
12- Wind Wall: see below

Guard Dava are intended to act as bodyguards for specific officers and soldiers.

Guard Dava spell list:


1- Baleful Moon
2- Blinding Halo
3- Cure Wounds
4- Dispel Magic: see below
5- Invisibility
6- Magic Missile: see below
7- Polymorph: see below
8- Protection from Energy: see below
9- Scorching Ray: see below
10- Shield: see below
11- Spell Collapse
12- Wall of Force: see below

Specialist Dava are those owned by the high nobility and are usually customized by their owners.  They have no set spell lists.

New Spells:

Chain Lightning
R: 50'        T: up to [sum] creatures    D: one action

One creature within range takes [sum] electrical damage, save for half.  Then, one creature within range of the first creature takes [sum]-[dice] damage, save for half.  Then, one creature within range of the second creature takes [sum]-(2[dice]) damage, save for half.  This continues, the electrical damage decreasing by [dice] each time until the next person in the chain would take no damage.

Circle of Power
R: 10*[dice]'    T: all within range        D: [dice] rounds

For the duration, divine power spills from the caster, striking all within range.  All within range regain 1d6+[dice] FS a round and gain advantage on all saving throws.  Additionally, if a creature would save successfully to take half damage from an ability, instead that creature takes no damage instead.

Dispel Magic
R: 50'        T: [dice] spells        D: one action

Target [dice] spell effects affecting creatures or objects within range.  If the targeted spell effects are cast with 3x or fewer [dice] than this casting of Dispel Magic, they automatically end.  

If they are cast with a number of [dice] greater than the casting of Dispel Magic, the caster of Dispel Magic must make a COG check.  The DC for the check is 10+([dice] the spell was cast with).  If the spell was cast with an equal amount of [dice], the caster of Dispel Magic makes his COG Check against DC 10. 

If the casting of Dispel Magic was cast with more [dice] than the spell it is attempting to end, reduce the DC of the COG check by [dice].

Magic Missile
R: 200'     T: creature     D: one action

Target takes [sum] + [dice] damage, no Save.

from Red Kangaroo

R: 30'        T: creature        D: [dice] hours

One creature within range must save.  If the creature has more HD than [dice], it adds the difference to its save.  If it has 3x more HD than [dice], it automatically passes.  A creature may also choose to fail its save, if it wishes to.

On a failed save, the creature is transformed into an animal.  If appropriate, Referee's discretion, the person transformed gains +[sum] FS when transformed.  This should only be if the animal is something large and more difficult to kill then the creature's original form.

After the duration ends, or whenever the caster wishes to, the transformed creature returns to their original form.  Alternatively, if this spell is cast with 4 [dice] or more, the duration can be permanent.

Protection from Energy
R: touch    T: [dice] creatures        D: [dice] minutes

[dice] creatures you touch gains a resistance (takes half damage) from one type of elemental damage, such as fire, ice/cold, electrical/lightning, acid, etc for the duration.

Alternatively, you may grant a creature immunity to one type of elemental damage for the duration if you count that one creature as 2 for purposes of targeting [dice] creatures.

For example, if you wanted to give Alice the Fighter immunity to Fire Damage, you would need to cast the spell with at least 2 [dice].

Scorching Ray
R: 50'        T: up to [dice] creatures    D: one action

The caster conjures [dice] rays of fires and can fire them at up to [dice] creatures.  Each one requires an attack roll.  On a hit, each rays does 1d6+[dice] fire damage.    

R: touch    T: creature            D: [dice] rounds

One creature you touch, or yourself, is covered in a magical aura that grants them +[sum] Fighting Spirit for the duration or until it is all consumed.

Wall of Force
R: 50'        T: A line up to 10*[dice]' long        D: [dice] rounds

The caster creates a wall of force up to 10*[dice]' long and 10+[dice]' high.  The wall can be any shape, as long as it is one continuous path along the ground or a vertical surface. 

The wall of force has [sum]+[dice] HP and takes half damage from all elemental sources, and no damage from non-magical sharp or blunt.  The wall persists until destroyed or until the duration ends.

Wind Wall
R: 50'        T: A line up to 10*[dice]' long        D: [dice] rounds

The caster creates a wall of wind up to 10*[dice]' long and 10+[dice]' high.  The wall can be any shape, as long as it is one continuous path along the ground or another surface.  The wall disperses gases, fogs and airborne particulates near where it is.  Projectiles fired at those behind the wall either automatically miss as the wind knocks them wildly off course (arrows, crossbow bolts, etc) or receive a penalty equal to [dice] to hit (missiles, bullets, etc).  Larger projectiles such as flung boulders are unaffected by the wall. 

Additionally, those within 10' of the outside of the wall when it first appears must save.  On a failure, they are blown backwards and take [dice] damage if they are in an open space, or 1d8+[dice] if they could be blown backwards into something hard enough to damage them (rocks, a tree, a person with a spear, etc).  Those who attempt to get close to the wall from the outside must also save or be blown away and take [dice] damage.  

artist unknown

Non-Dava Spellcasters in the Empire:

Despite their reputation, the Empire does not enslave all those with magical talent.  If you pass a certification test administered by the Department of Property and the Priests of the First Order, you can be granted an Imperial Dispensation to Practice Sorcery, or a Writ of Sanction.  In parlance, these are usually referred to as an Emperor's Writ.   

These Writs grant the right to practice magic and study it without fear of being shackled and processed into a Dava. 

These Writs are quite hard to acquire, but are generally granted to those who study in one of the Imperial Colleges and devote themselves to a certain number of years of service in the Army, Church or Imperial Bureaucracy.  Additionally, one can apply independently to the Department of Property to begin the application process, but this is much more difficult than serving the requisite number of years.  A hefty bribe can usually speed the process, though you must still pass the muster of the Priests of the First Order, who are much harder to convince, as they are fanatics who spend all their time inflicting hardship on themselves and meditating on the glory of the God-Emperor and his Thirteen Eyes.  As such, they are often immune to bribes.

Still, even those who have served for years in the Emperor's Government or obtained their Writ through fair means should still be careful, as Imperial Dispensations are not granted in perpetuity.  Depending on who granted one, a Writ can be temporarily suspended or revoked.  And any Magi who has their Writ permanently revoked faces only one of two fates.

The more common one is that they will be tortured and turned into a Dava, enslaved for the rest of their natural life. 

But there is another fate for those deemed too dangerous, untrustworthy or undeserving of even those pitiful life of a Dava. 

These poor souls are clapped in irons and taken to the capital of Alagadda, where they face the worst fate a Magi can- Extinguishing.

This is a process where the Magi is hauled before the God-Emperor and then he devours that victim's soul, stripping them of not only most of their drive and ambition, but also their magical talent.  There is never any trial, as anyone presented to the God-Emperor to be Extinguished has already been pre-judged as guilty. 

Someone who has been Extinguished will have their irises turn grey and lose the ability to do magic.  They will also lose chunks of their personality and any chance to become immortal.  These poor specimens are known as Drah and are generally thought of as pathetic, sympathetic things.  They lack much in the way of drive and generally move their lives as if being controlled by an unseen force. 

They are less creative, ambitious and charismatic than normal people.  Yet they do everything else that people do- they work, eat and drink, cry and laugh, marry and are given in marriage.  They can have friends and social lives.  Those who still have their souls try not to think about that. 

Unless you were aware of what they were like before, you might find them to be a rather boring, unenergetic person with no creativity.  An unremarkable man whom you'd likely soon forget.  Only those who knew the Drah before they lost their soul would be able to see the change and weep for the person who was lost.


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