My son is a creative boy. In light of John Cleese’s commentary on creativity, he has the lifestyle.
One of his favorite things to do is to ask what an object would be like in a magical ‘land’ where it could walk and talk. For example, he will ask things like, “what are dolphins like in Dolphin Land?”
Today’s question was, “what are letters like in Letter Land?”
This got me to thinking about a place in the Astral Sea where everyone can cast 1e style cantrips with a simple sound. This would be little things like burp, hiccup, spice, clean, etc. However, more powerful magics require multiple individuals speaking their spell together. This is analogous to letters coming together to form words.
I don’t want to do anything as complex as determining which individual cantrips come together to form more powerful spells. Most languages with an alphabet (as opposed to a syllabry) have individual sounds that form words together without assigning a meaning to the individual sound. For example, in the word “fun” in English, the letters by themselves have no meaning.
What this means is an entire culture where individual spellcasting is practically non-existent or somehow culturally abhorrent. There wouldn’t be mages or clerics in an adventuring party, but the party as a collective whole could perform magic.
What this allows is a party that is connected together by their religion adventuring together. The collective whole functions like a cleric (heal spells, turn undead, etc.) but individually, the members have different functions. In a D&D sense, the party would basically be variations of fighters and thieves.
Thinking further, though, it may not make sense to have a dichotomy between divine and arcane magic at this point. Combining the spell lists, so to speak, leaves open the question of how the party could turn undead. As a tangent, being undead could come to mean in this culture, that the individual no longer has their cantrip and cannot contribute to a community casting a spell. Being undead means a loss of identity and a loss of community which is why undead are so feared.
As a tangent to the tangent, individuals that lust for power would work on a different kind of magic that the society would find abhorrent outside of necromancy. Necromancy is bad enough, animating bodies that have no identity or community. This new form of magic would seek to artificially create a community so that an individual, instead of a group, could cast more powerful spells. This could be something like a secret room in a stronghold that imprisons individuals or as odd as somehow combing individuals as an amalgam. The Amalgam would be abhorrent to the society because it is not willing community and because of the stripping of identity of many so that one can become its own community.
Back to adventuring parties, there are two ways to increase diversity in the spells that they can cast. One way is for individuals learn more cantrips. This would not be a frequent event. An individual may learn three or four cantrips in an entire lifetime. (No, they cannot combine them to cast spells for themselves.) The other way is to increase the size of the party over time. This would give new members of the party a meaningful way to contribute without functioning strictly as meatshields. (Meatshields aren’t bad. I use them in other settings. In this society, though, I’m not sure the idea of meatshields would fit.)
Another thing this idea allows is for a village to be able to ward off a big bad monster without necessarily hiring some mercenaries to do it. The entire village can come together to cast one “big” spell to banish a demon or ward off an ancient dragon.
It occurs to me that there should be a class of individuals that study magic so that it is known who to put together in order to cast a spell. Individuals know their cantrip(s), but someone outside of the individual would need to know how to put them together. (This could be this society’s idea of leadership.) Thinking of Fighters as people that solve problems with weapons and strength and Thieves as people that solve problems by using their skill, one of the skills a thief (or an LOTFP specialist) would be the study of magic. In essence, he or she would be like a sociologist.
This would also make certain monsters, like orcs, dangerous at all levels of play. Increasing the number of orcs increases their sword power *and* their magic power. Hmmm.
Passing thought – maybe dragons can still be individual spellcasters, one of the many reasons that they would be feared, but their power would come from the amalgam type of magic mentioned earlier. Dragons wouldn’t eat people, but keep them for the ability to be a spellcaster.
For ACKS, the party may need to be able to gain proficiencies as a group. I need to think about that some more. What do you think?
Just some food for thought on a Saturday. Feel free to steal and use for your purposes if it spurs some ideas.