More from My Son

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.

Paper Pill – Astral and Pranic Travel

Traditionally, D&D mentions the silver cord in regards to Astral travel. The cord allows the traveler to find his/her body again. If the cord is severed, the traveler will never find the host body again.

Although the notion of a silver cord has many sources, one notable source, especially for the Western world, comes from Ecclesiastes 12:6. In this verse, the author also mentions a golden bowl. This sparked an idea that generated this post.

In the modern world, the term Astral travel is used to describe travel to other dimensions as well as out-of-body experiences. Just for the sake of argument, let's give separate names to each distinct experience. Some call out-of-body experiences etheric travel or etheric projection. Since the cosmology of my game has no ethereal plane, I'll choose something different. (I couldn't find the adjective form of prana, so I coined the word pranic.) So we have astral travel to describe travel to other planes of existence and pranic travel for out-of-body-but-still-on-Earth travel.

Where does this fit with Eccl 12:6? The silver cord is a description of Astral travel. How would a golden bowl fit with Pranic travel?

I've read a lot of Bible commentators mention that the Golden bowl speaks about the head as the container of the mind. Other philosophies, based on my incomplete research, seem to bear this out. Now I don't want to call this a golden helmet. After all, there is only one Golden Helmet. Still, the idea appeals on several levels.

I like the idea of traveling in the Prime Material Plane, but leaving the body behind. Sure, there are some dangers in doing this, but it is faster and relatively more safe to travel this way. Although mages would undoubtedly use this method of travel or reconnaissance from time to time, this feels more appropriate for a psionic character.

Maybe the pranic traveler sees the bowl resting in the hands of the body. Maybe the traveler can always see the golden bowl, regardless of distance from the body. In this case, the bowl would also show the direction of the body.

Another idea would be that the traveler see's the body's skull as shining in golden light. This ties into ideas of the golden bowl being the vessel for the mind. I also like the idea of seeing a golden skull.

Although it doesn't feel as creative, there could also be a golden cord that attaches to the back of the head, instead of a silver cord that attaches to the middle of the back. Thinking of it in terms of two cords makes me think of this as an insurance policy for the astral traveler - if one is cut, the other will still lead back to the body.

How would you visualize the golden bowl?

A Different Division of Rulebooks

I posted about this in G+, but wanted to expand on the thoughts here.

It starts with this post from Greywulf.

The shared worlds thing was already done with Spelljammer. As I said in G+, Dragon Magazine even had an article for porting over Space:1889.

As far as writing style, I am all over the end to the Gamebooks are Technical Manuals school of thought. Even the rules to Life (boardgame) are not as dry as other game rules.

I don't like to use minis, so I'm just skipping that part.

I wanted to focus on the bit about doing this with an OGL game like Labyrinth Lord. To do one better in this exercise, why not just go straight to Microlite 20. One page of rules, many possibilities, right? Well, let's start with M20 Purest Essence. 17 pages.

The PHB: Remove all race and class information and the Game Master's Guide. Also remove the spell lists and the creature lists. What you're left with is about one page of rules to play the game.

The GMG: The entire M20 Purest Essence, although it will need to be organized.

Then we have the codices:

Humans - Race information for humans (+1 to all skills). Class information for all humans playing the various classes.  Add the spell lists, but make them different in flavor and selection. The only place with a universal spell list is the GMG. That's just the crunchy stuff. The rest is history, a section like the Roman Way called the Human way. Outposts of humans in various game worlds, etc. Art, fluff, lots of stuff.

Elves - Race information for Elves (+2 MIND). Class information for all elves playing the various classes. Add the spell lists, but make them different in flavor and selection. You see where I'm going.

At the table, the player has a codex and a one page handout for rules. The GM has the GM Guide.

What do you think?