I mentioned in a previous post about creating spells with a mechanical element (number crunching) and a narrative element. It occured to me at some point tonight that a narrative tag, which I call an emphasis, does not have to be a part of a spell, but can function as a material component or a spell focus.
Let's say that amongst a magic-user's emphases, he or she has string and knots. Instead of using strings and/or knots in the description of the spell (though that would be great) I could create an M-U that uses knots to cast any spell. To keep with Swords & Wizardry, a spell's level is an indicator of the complexity of the knot required to cast the spell. Going even further, the M-U doesn't need to study spells to re-cast them. He or she simply needs to make more knots. The time requirement is the same to keep from mucking about the mechanics, but instead of hours of study to keep a semi-alive magical thing trapped in the M-U's mind to be released as a spell, the M-U weaves magical energy into a beautiful and complex knot.
Here are some examples to ponder:
- The perfunctory Wikipedia link.
- Some history behind Chinese Knotting
- More info about Chinese Knotting.
- Khipu, Mayan knotting
- Flavorful knot terminology to spread around
Keeping that in mind, let's create an NPC wizard with emphases on knots, things that take thread form, red, gold, knots, and two or three more. We'll call him Zhanguo Jee.
Fast forward a number of years to our party delving into a dungeon and tower that are the remnants of Zhanguo Jee's tower and lab. There would be encounters with all kinds of crossbred creatures, monsters taking refuge in the tower and dungeon, local dread of the place, and the promise of great reward.
Into this dungeon, we scatter a few knots here and there. Maybe we add in a mad mongerlman M-U that was Zhanguo's assistant. He goes around muttering gibberish about how it's all tied up and can't be untied. Throw in some spiders weaving really really weird webs. Use the M-U's emphases to create some variant creatures.
This may seem like uneccesary window dressing the the party, but if they find Zhanguo's spell book and/or scrolls, the party's M-U has some new spells and a few knots to be able to get started on casting them. The referee could rule that after some study, the party's M-U can add one or two emphases to be able to cast Zhanguo's spells. Of course, there would be slight variations as the party's M-U would not have the same emphases as Zhanguo did, but that's all the more fun for everyone.
I'll have to write this up someday.