The Next Big Project

I don't know how far I will get on this, but I'm posting about it as a prod to get into the habit of writing instead of thinking.

For that reason alone, there will be no kickstarter. In fact, it will be free.

Seriously, though, the big project is a big book of magic for Swords & Wizardry. The book will include alternate options for magic, classes, spells, rules for spell research as well as magic item creation. Much of the alternate options for magic are already written, so that is not the difficult part. The rules for magic item creation are really straight-forward, but I haven't tested them, ergo, they may not be as straight-forward as I believe they are. The big challenge is finishing the spell building system.

Backing up a bit, here are some things to know about the material in the book:

Brace Yourself: There Will be Houserules

I have changes that range from modifying the odds for learning spells for characters that spend money to allowing scroll creation at 1st level. One example of a house rule is that everyone can use slings. The main reason is to provide a magic-user an alternative to throwing knives. One of the implications of that small house rule is that since many magic-users may use a sling, magic stones for slings become a type of magic item that appears from time to time. Since everyone uses a sling, these stones are quite useful.

Priests of Different Mythoi

This was bound to happen for me. In my head, the priests of Mitra have to be different from the priests of Asura. What would a priest for the God of Magic look like? How does a God of the Harvest send an "adventuring Cleric" into the world?

In 2e, Cleric spells were grouped into spheres which later became domains. Since the document will be OGL, I feel like I need to use the word domains even if I think "Spheres" in my head. Maybe I'm just getting old.

These domains are part of what makes one priest different from another. Another distinction involves alternatives to turn undead. Some variations are as simple as Turn Demons or Turn Orcs. Other variations are based on spell effects like Remove Fear or Protection from Evil 10' Radius. My favorite one at the moment involves the ability to provide healing that does not change the target's hit points. This includes spells like Cure Insanity or Ability Score drain, but not any of the Cure Wounds spells.

New Mechanics

I generally do not like to introduce new mechanics. I prefer to reuse ones that already exist. One favorite is a take on the Turn Undead table - variations of that appear in an alchemist type of class and in the psionicist class.

Yet, with the emphasis system aimed at creating more unusual spells, new mechanics open themselves up to all kinds of options. One of these options is a new type of magic item that allows you to permanently or temporary alter your magic-user's choice of emphases. My favorite is a spell that allows the caster to "borrow" an emphasis from its target.

I also have my own take on a spell point system. There is no subtraction involved. The saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention and I needed a system that was faster for my kids.

Wizards' Forms of Magic

The most powerful form of magic for wizards is Eldritch Magic. This is magic as presented in the S&W Complete rules. This means so-called unbalanced spells and spellbooks, spells as semi-living things in the wizard's brain, and all other kinds of Vancian goodness.

The second most-powerful form is Academic Magic. This is what "standardizing" magic looks like. Practitioners can create new spells with a greater degree of certainty, but lose the ability to re-create all the spells used by Eldritch Wizards. For example, an Academic Wizard can create a spell that sends a magic bolt at a target for 1d6 damage. The Academic Wizard, however, will not be able to match the range (240') of the Eldritch Wizard nor the ability to generate multiple bolts per level. For an Academic Wizard to generate a Magic Missile like spell, complete with a level-based effect on the number of missiles created, he or she would generate it as a second or third level spell instead of a first level spell.

The third most-powerful form is Everyday or Common Magic. This includes minor cantrips and illusions. These spells also include simple things like Mending objects, adding a foot to a length of rope, adding a spice to a dish and more. Don't let spells with minor effects fool you, shortening a length a rope can have deadly consequences.

Did You Have to Do Psionics?

Yes I do.

Eldritch and Academic Magics are available only to those that have the gift. Either a person can cast these types of spells or they cannot. For a person that wants to learn magic, but doesn't have the gift, the options are to either become a Cleric or make a deal with a supernatural power (i.e. become a Witch). Psionicists, called Disciples of The Path have found a different way. Clerics denounce disciples as atheists and heretics. Wizards consider them unsophisticated and crude. Witches consider them a hated enemy. Those that choose the Path, however, know that their powers equip them to deal with extraplanar forces malevolent and benign.

Other Things

There will be more spells and a handful of new creatures. As mentioned earlier, there is a spell building system. In addition to various player options, I hope to include many NPCs, including some that do not conform to any set of rules. (Bwa ha ha). There should be a whole slew of new magic items as well as artifacts. My hope is to provide something that may add a bit of spice to everyone's game.

Wish me luck, I'll need it. ūüôā


More about Catalysts and Elixirs

Chad Rose asked me for details about catalysts on G+ and I answered in some detail there. In other words, he asked about what catalysts are. The short answer is: it is up to the DM. The long answer, if it is of interest to anyone, consists of a few various ideas.

One way of physically defining a catalyst is to imagine a cloth bag filled with a coarsely ground powder. To make an elixir, the hewcaster spreads the powder on a stone and says a few incantations. Over the course of ten minutes, the stone will appear to become roiling liquid while maintaining its shape. Near the end, a small piece, a bit smaller than a chicken egg, will separate from the larger stone. Both pieces will stop moving. All of the catalyst powder will be on the larger piece of stone.

The powder can then be poured back into the bag from the stone. Absolutely no powder is lost by making an elixir. The only way the hewcaster loses powder is if he or she spills some on the ground.

Thinking of catalysts this way make an elixir less of a potion and more of a lozenge. The imbiber puts the elixir in their mouth and it quickly dissolves into a liquid and consumed. As a matter of convenience, I assume the stones are not easily broken unless the hewcaster hurls them at a target.

As an aside, if may be worth it to allow a hewcaster the ability to use a sling. It can provide some range without giving him or her any other advantage. If a hewcaster throws an elixir at a target, he or she must make an attack roll anyway...

Another way of defining the catalyst is to imagine it as a short length of cord or rope. Once wrapped around the hewstone, the spell caster puts on a pair of gloves to safely handle it. Picking it up, he or she tilts one corner of the stone toward a container and liquid drips from the stone into the container.

This makes elixirs just like potions, but requires the hewcaster to carry around a bunch of empties. This seems prohibitive at higher levels or extended campaigns. Still, the DM can hand wave the whole thing. Who knows, maybe the hewcaster was a glass blower before pursuing magic.

If the DM would like the used hewstones to have some kind of mark to distinguish them from unused ones, run a variation of the first idea. In this scenario, the catalyst is a triangular piece of rock with a thick groove cut out of the long edge. The catalyst can slide over the corner of the hewstone and says a few choice incantation. After about 10 minutes, the catalyst is removed taking a piece of the hewstone with it. That fragment of the hewstone falls out of the catalyst and becomes an elixir.

With this method, the hewcaster can now more easily go through a stockpile of stones to determine which hewstones can be used to make elixirs and which ones need to go back to the lab for spell research purposes.

To really throw a wrench at your players, make all three processes work so that there is a chance that a found hewstone may or may not work to make an elixir.

The Hewcaster


  1. to strike forcibly with an ax, sword, or other cutting instrument; chop; hack.
  2. to sever (a part) from a whole by means of cutting blows.

In short, a hewcaster severs the essence of a creature or object and uses it to research spells, create potion-like magic items called elixirs and ultimately create hideous creatures that sear the mind. He is part magic-user, part alchemist, and part mad scientist.

Taking Essence and Making Hewstones

Aside from spells, the hewcaster can take the essence of any creature or object. What is essence? Essence is made up of the qualities of a creature or object that make it distinct. For example, the essence of a bear consists, in part, of its Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. It also includes furry skin, claws, sharp teeth eye color, physiological structure and large size. More than that, it includes the need to hibernate in the winter, a taste for salmon (or other fish) and all the memories it has. With enough thought, I'm sure you could come up with more characteristics of a bear not mentioned here.

Now that I've defined what essence is, what does the hewcaster do with it? At first, if the hewcaster is successful in taking the essence of a creature or object, the essence forms into a solid object called a hewstone. A hewstone is a smooth, rectangular-shaped rock that is about one foot long, seven inches wide and two to three inches thick. In this form, the essence can be kept indefinitely.

Back in the laboratory, the hewcaster can study its contents to research new spells, learn more about the type of creature from its essence, or learn about the specific creature's essence. Using the example of a bear mentioned before, the hewcaster could research new spells based on the characteristics of a bear, learn more about bears in general (like what they like to eat, what happens to their when they hibernate, etc), or learn about the specific habits and memories of the specific bear whose essence is trapped in the hewstone.


The new ability of the hewcaster is to create elixirs. Elixirs function like potions in that drinking one will grant the imbiber some magical effect. Elixirs are different from potions in that applying it to a target will do the same thing. This means that it is possible to throw an elixir at a target and use it as a weapon.

Elixirs are made by a hewcaster when he or she employs a catalyst to draw power from a hewstone. Catalysts come in five types. Each catalyst is able to draw different aspects of essence to produce certain effects.

Type of Catalyst Effect
Body Gain the Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or one physical characteristic.
Mind Gain the Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma or memories.
Shape Gain the form
Soul Be transformed into the target
Blood Gain a special ability of the target

Referring to the bear example once again, taking a hewstone with the essence of a bear and applying a Body Catalyst will create an elixir that grants a physical characteristic of a bear. This could be as straightforward as creating an elixir that grants the strength of a bear or as subtle as making an elixir that makes the target fur-covered.

Of course, the effects of an elixir need not be positive. Making an elixir that grants the intelligence of a bear will change the target from its current intelligence to the intelligence of a bear. Doing that to a human (especially a magic-user) will lower the target's intelligence. (Then again, using the same elixir on an animated statue or golem would make it more intelligent.)

One major difference between a spell and an elixir is that a hewcaster can make an elixir in a short amount of time (about 10 minutes) with the right materials. However, the hewcaster can only handle a limited amount of exposure to essences and catalysts before suffering great risks to mind and body. As a hewcaster increases in level, he or she can make more elixirs.

Final Notes about Hewstones

A hewstone can only be used to make an elixir once. Catalysts can be used up to 50 times to make elixirs. A hewstone that has been used to make an elixir can still be used to research spells. It will not, however, be useful in making another elixir. Such an attempt will destroy the hewstone and harm the hewcaster along with most of his or her equipment.

A hewstone with the essence of a magic-user can be used to create an elixir that grants the ability to cast spells generally or cast a specific spell. Any spells cast from these types of elixirs do not count against the allowable spells per day. One way of using an elixir to grant spell casting powers is to allow a thief or fighter to hurl a couple of spells. Another way to use spell casting types of elixirs is to allow a hewcaster to cast 8th and 9th level spells.

Why a Hewcaster is Neutral at Best

The downside of a hewcaster is that the act of taking a creature's essence will change the target into a horrible cypher beast. A cypher beast is a pale, four-legged creature with a huge maw, four clawed limbs and little else. The transformation lasts for only a couple of days.

After Nine Hundred Words, Finally the PDF

Details of the hewcaster class can be found in the hewcaster pdf. I've also attached an open text document for modification here: hewcaster.odt.