Spells & Spellcasting
The magic that most people know is that of spellbooks and incantations, a practice formally known as High Magic. High Magic centers around the Arcane Tongue, the most common language of power amongst humanoids. The alphabet it is written in is related to that used by the elves, but the power is not in the alphabet; the power is in the words themselves. Each word of power in the arcane tongue is alive, writhing with untapped power, a direct conduit of energy from the multiverse.
Magic users on Leng will know the Arcane alphabet and the smattering of words which they have learned so far. It is very rare that two spells will share exactly the same words of power, making each spell very different. When a wizard comes across a new spell, he will not be able to memorise it immediately. Much of the spell will be written in Common or Elvish (though using the Arcane alphabet for secrecy), and as such it is usually possible to tell what spell he has laid his hands on. Nevertheless, even if he understands some of the words of power entailed in its memorisation and casting, the inflections and combinations will be totally foreign to him, for each new spell is immensely different. Without magical aid, attempting to decipher a new spell can take months - luckily, amongst the most basic of spells taught to apprentices is that of Read Magic - by the power of this incantation, it becomes possible for a mage to comprehend the meaning of an unfamiliar spell so that he may attempt to learn it with a Learn Spell check. As might be expected, each new spell learnt adds to a mage's vocabulary and his understanding of the syntax of the language of magic, which is invaluable in devising new spells. Of course, even if a wizard knows all the words of power that make up the trigger phrase of a particular spell, this does not give him the power to cast it. In order to cast a spell, it must be studied, its pattern imprinted with mystical energy in the wizard's mind by the process known colloquially as memorisation - though it is very different from simply committing something to memory. It is for this reason that a wizard is useless without his spellbooks, regardless of how well he understands a spell or how many times he has cast it. Each time he casts a spell it vanishes from his mind, and he must rest and return to his spellbooks to replenish his stores of magic.
Few realise just how complex, difficult and arcane the process of learning and memorising spells is: firstly, the spells are not linear texts. They cannot be read from cover to cover. Rather, they are recipes of words, symbols that must be held in the mind, gestures that must be made, components that must be used. Part of memorising a spell is grappling with the arcane symbols and words of power, which are like living creatures and require a great force of will to pin down and commit to the mind - the higher the level of the spell, the more complex and difficult to handle this "web of spells" is. Another part is drawing energy from the external sources which the spell uses, and storing them in this fine mesh of symbols and runes that has been prepared for it. It is this energy that the spell uses for its power, as well as the empathic energy stored in the spell components; without these, the spell would have nothing to feed it but the wizard's own lifeforce, which is too feeble to cast any but the weakest spells. Apprentices are warned from a young age never to attempt to cast a spell without its components or to cast a spell straight from the spellbook, for the magic does not discriminate in where it draws its energy from.
All spells are similar in that a mesh of mystical symbols and words are held in the spellcaster's mind, forming a cage that allows energy from the Astral or the Positive/Negative Material Planes to be trapped - the raw energies of creation. These symbols are keyed to certain sounds that, when combined in the proper patterns, release the stored energy in the form of a spell. The casting of a spell thus expends the carefully stored energy, and disrupts the patterns that were used to store it. This is what causes a spell to be forgotten once cast, even if hours are spent memorising them.
Many spells also require somatic components in conjunction with words. The spoken words trigger the release of the magical energy, and the hand movements are usually required in order to control and specify the required direction, target, etc. As another measure, material components are added to some spells - they provide some of the spell's power through sympathetic magic, allowing the difficulty and complexity of a spell to be reduced in exchange for requiring components in its casting. Those spells without apparent component are actually utilizing the air exhaled by the magic user, and the power of his will. When a component is omitted, or a mage tries to cast a spell without first memorising it properly and storing its energy within these trigger words, the results can be catastrophic.
Release of stored energy is not particularly debilitating to the spell caster, as he or she has gathered this energy over a course of time prior to the loosing of the power. It comes from outside the spell caster, not from his or her own vital essence. The power to activate even a first level spell would leave a spell caster weak and shaking if it were drawn from his or her own personal energy, and a third level spell would most likely kill them. Because spells tap power from other planes, any improper casting is likely to cause the spell not to function (the heater is turned on, but you haven't plugged it in) or to malfunction (you held onto the prongs of the plug when you tapped the current).
Clerics are different, but the fundamentals remain the same. Through prayer and meditation, they receive specially empowered words which form the various spells possible for them. Of utmost importance is the relationship between cleric and deity. For clerics of 1st and 2nd level, they require the permission of their deity and the spark of power within them granted by their god, but do not commune with any supernatural being personally.
Cleric spells of 3rd-5th level are obtained through the aid of supernatural servants. That is, through meditation and prayer, the cleric's needs are understood and the proper spells are transmitted by the deities' minions. It goes without saying that clerics of a higher level are being watched more closely. If a powerful cleric displeases their deity, 3rd to 7th level spells may be cut off for a period of time, to chastise them without causing them to fall from grace - more as a message than anything else. When they pray for spells, they will simply be informed of the displeasure of their deity. They will know what must be done to atone.
Not just any book can be a spellbook. Copying a spell is a work of the utmost precision; it requires the finest quality ink, the sharpest pens, and paper that will not blot or blur at all. The slightest blemish or mistake can ruin a copied spell, and the wizard must use only the finest items in order to ensure that his spells are copied over. Spellbooks must be specially commissioned from a skilled bookbinder. They cost 5 gp per page, or 10 gp per page for a compact travelling spellbook. The ink required to scribe spells is even more expensive, costing 20 gp per page. Level 1 wizards start with a spellbook with 100 pages and enough ink to fill 25 pages.
Spells take up a great deal of room; even if the incantation can be spoken across 10 or 20 seconds, a great deal of preparation is done before hand. Pages are dedicated to notes on the spell, intricate symbols that must be locked into the spellcaster's mind, and descriptions of the arcane gestures required to actually complete the spell.
In order to learn a spell, you must first cast Read Magic in order to read it. Once a spell has been read, it is "translated" and you are able to read it from then on. You must spend 1 hour per spell level attempting to learn the spell before you can memorise it. After spending the time to learn the spell, you must make the Chance to Learn Spell check. If you fail, you cannot learn that spell until you gain an experience level. Each spell takes up a number of pages equal to its spell level + 1d4. Copying a spell into a spellbook is a long, laborious process infused with mysticism; it must be done by hand. The process of copying a spell takes 1 day per spell level.
If you do not know Read Magic, learning a new spell is much more difficult. If you can persuade a wizard who already knows the spell to teach you, this will take no longer than it would if you had cast Read Magic - and you will get a +10% bonus to your Learn Spell check. He will need to spend as much time as you do to learn it, though, so this is a great imposition. Otherwise, learning a spell manually is a tedious process of interpretation and decoding. After 1 day of study, you can discern what spell it is and whether you are powerful enough to cast it. Then attempting to learn it takes 2 weeks per spell level, minus your Intelligence score. At the end of this period, you can make a Learn Spell check to add it to your spellbook.
Paper, vellum and other such writing materials are the natural choice for incribing spells upon. They are light, portable, and easy to inscribe with ink. It is possible to place a spell into any medium, however, as long as it is pure enough. Spells inscribed into stone tablets or even cliff faces are commonly found amongst giant-kin and dragonkind, for example. In principle, inscribing a spell into stone is no different from writing on a piece of paper. Because of the precision, complexity and magical talent required to inscribe a spell, however, it is rarely seen amongst humans - few mages also happen to be master stonemasons.
Creatures such as giants and dragons who practice magic most likely choose to inscribe their spells into stone sometimes because they do not generally use paper, and because it is far easier for them to work stone with their brute strength and diamond-tough claws, respectively. After all, it is difficult to imagine a dragon leafing through the pages of a spellbook!
By the time a mage reaches first level, the simple cantrips they learned as an apprentice are trivial to cast. These spells are so simple that they can be retained in the mind even after casting, and may be used at will without preparation by a skilled wizard. Even apprentices (level 0) may cast them a number of times per day equal to the bonus languages granted by their Intelligence before they are too exhausted to marshal the magic any longer. Apprentices tend to learn each school of cantrips one after another, often starting with Evocation as it is the easiest.
Cantrips do not have a set duration, but they do not last for longer than the caster concentrates on them. They may duplicate any effect (from any school of magic not forbidden to the caster) within reason, but none may duplicate or match the power of a first level spell. Some examples of common uses for cantrips include:
- Apply up to 5 pounds of pressure, i.e. to open a door. (Alteration)
- Create noises at a maximum of speaking volume, which cannot include speech - or create simple visual effects. (Illusion)
- Keep away bugs or touch something hot (but not burning or red-hot) without hurting yourself. (Abjuration)
- Temporarily conjure forth a small object that is about as fragile as pottery, regardless of material. (Conjuration)
- Light a candle, create a gust of wind to blow one out, or produce a pleasant warmth. (Evocation)
- Discover whether food is "off", or quickly know the location of a book in your study. (Divination)
- Make bland food flavorful or change the apparent texture of temperature of an object for one person. (Enchantment)
- Make someone feel cold and uncomfortable, awake and alert, or animate a tiny creature such as a spider or mouse. (Necromancy)
If a cantrip is cast on or at someone, they automatically receive a saving throw vs. spell with a +2 bonus - regardless of whether they are aware of it. Most cantrips can be cast with a word or two and a slight gesture, giving a +2 bonus on Spellcraft checks to cast them stealthily. All cantrips have a casting time of 1 and a maximum range of 30 feet.