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Tag: Spell building (Page 1 of 4)

A Different Order

I posted about a verb-noun magic system on Twitter and this was the response.

When someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of Ars Magica asks about an idea and invites you to submit it, you need to write it down. This idea lives in a spreadsheet now, but will live here when I am finished with this post.

Magic in a Different Language

The main idea began as Ars Magica spells in a different language. If you're new to it, Ars Magica uses Latin for fifty types of spells, five verbs called Actions, and ten nouns called Forms. Combine an Action and a Form to generate a sentence that begins a spell for one of the types of spells.

One of the Actions is Creo or I create and one of the forms is Terram, a term that encompasses soil, stone, or minerals. If a Magi wishes to generate an earthen wall, they would cast a Creo Terram spell to do it.

My original idea was to use Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, or Amharic, but I realized that my disuse of Greek and my lack of knowledge of the other two languages would devolve any development of this idea into discussions of grammar and vocabulary. With some reluctance, I decided to use Vulgar to generate a language for me.

Birth of Haduren

I purchased a license for Vulgar, so after setting some basic parameters, I had a dictionary of 4000 generated words. Since I only want a naming language, I didn't most of the grammar, but I had enough to make basic sentences. This led to translating the Actions and Forms directly providing me with the following:

I createCreoGo je'awa
I perceiveIntellegoGo jecebi
I transformMutoGo jewesi
I destroyPerdoGo jegipi
I controlRegoGo jedilo
The Five Actions in Latin and Haduren

I used a bit of the grammar that was generated producing a je- prefix to mark present tense. The word for I, as a doer of an action is translated to go. I translated the Forms, but the little bit of grammar allowed me to distinguish between a definite object and an indefinite one. In other words, between some earth (any earth will do) and that earth (this specific bit of earth right here). So my I create earth types of spells change from Creo Terram to Go je'awa niboje (I create some earth/soil/minerals) or Go je'awa wuboje (I create that specific earth/soil/minerals).

And Now for Something Completely Different

In some ways, it's enough to have Ars Magica in a different language than Latin. That said, I wanted something different that evokes a different sense. To prevent scope creep, I set three goals:

  • Remain simple to translate
  • Add new spellcasting options, if possible
  • Change the grammar
  • Move away from just copying Ars Magica's four by five system

The first step was to make a slight change to the grammar to evoke a different feeling. Instead of I create, magic is plural, i.e. We create. Looking at my grammar, the 1st person plural is fi pronounced like the English word fee.

We createFi je'awa
We perceiveFi jecebi
We transformFi jewesi
We destroyFi jegipi
We controlFi jedilo
The Five Actions in Haduren (final)

The next step was to change the grammar of a spell from We Create Earth to We Earth Create. In other words, to change the word order from Subject-Verb-Object to Subject-Object-Verb. Going back to my examples from earlier, I create some earth/soil/minerals becomes Fi niboje je'awa (We some-earth create).

The next idea provided an adverb to describe the means of casting a spell. I imagined that most spells would be cast by using magical energy, so the only real change in the spells would be adding a word that was used with most spells. Consulting my generated list of words, magic is dogu. A word for by means of or more simply 'with' is ni. This makes my We create some earth/soil/minerals by means of magical energy to Fi nidogu niboje je'awa (We by means of magical energy create some earth/soil/minerals). It sounds like a lot, but all this really does is make every spell begin with Fi ni-.

This begs the question, "What other means can be used to cast a spell?"

I thought about this in RPG terms, so I thought of name magic and magic that drains life points. This opens the door to different types of mages based on their source of magic. Looking through my vocabulary, I settled on ni'uso (by means of blood) and ni'saki (by means of a name). Putting this all together, I made the following spells:

Wewith magicsome matterenhance
Wewith bloodthat one spiritcommunicate with
Iwith nametrue name of a nearby riverthat one bodycontrol
Sample spells with all the elements of Haduren

You may have noticed that the truename spell changed back to I Control instead of We Control. This was done for flavor. I wanted to make truename magic rare, even a bit scary. In game, I decided that the spell caster is not working with the force of magic or with their life force for truename magic. The mage is on their own using forbidden knowledge.

The Fini spend blood and mystic energy, but the Goni voice the unknowable to impoverish the gods.

Ancient proverb

Using this System

I originally created this system for 5e and my homebrew OSR game. I'll include ideas for those two in a later post. The original tweet was in reference to Ars Magica, so I'll talk about that first. Before I start, though, it's important to note that I own the 4th edition book, follow The Ironbound Tome, and read wikis/forums. As such, my knowledge of Ars Magica is very incomplete.

Ars Magica Uses

In researching this post, I found that there are three official books that cover alternate magic in the world of Mythical Europe: Ancient Magic, Hedge Magic, and Rival Magic. In Ritual Magic, the Amazons have an alternate system for creating spells. Instead of Techniques and Forms, it uses Vowels and Consonants. Here is a sketch of a similar idea.

Commutative Tradition (Jihine)

There are two Magi of Ex Miscellanea that practice the Commutative tradition of magic. They call themselves Jihine (jee-HEE-nay) and claim to have learned their tradition east of Persia along the Silk Road. Rumors have spread of their connection to Suleiman. Explanation of their tradition has been compared to Taoist talismans leading to conjectures of ties to Cathay or possibly the kingdom of Prester John. Aside from tales of encountering sahir, very little is known about their tradition in the Hermetic Order. Their charms, however, are prized by all Magi not only due to their unique magical properties, but their exquisite craftsmanship. Jihine openly share about their processes for making charms/talismans as well as their research.

Jihine outside of the Order of Hermes find a way to ingratiate themselves to whatever order is in power where they live. There are Jihine in every land and fae region, though never in large numbers. Their mindset tends towards research and scholarly pursuits. They produce many treatises and charms that comes from a desire to learn and to help others. Jihine share a common belief that magic is performed with the energies that fuel spells and charms seeing themselves as a catalyst more than a controller of magic. They are careful to write in the languages where they live, using their own language solely for casting spells.

Jihine magic begins on a Path, uses a Voice to direct magic using Icons that represent areas in all creation.

Jihine Paths

Jihine choose one of three paths to begin their magical training: ICE (EE-say), DOGU (DOH-goo), or SAKI (SAH-kee). ICE translates to Ink, DOGU to magic or viz, and SAKI translates to words or names. Jihine will eventually learn something about the other three paths. The Path of USO or blood, is known to all Jihine, even as apprentices. More on that later.

The Path of Ink is devoted to creating charms and treatises. Their charms are long thin scroll written in an unknown language that provide protection and luck. The Treatises focus on topic of their local order and rarely about their own practices.

The Path of Magic is devoted to using magical energy to cast and research spells. Most Jihine start here to aid them in their career as a Magi. Like Magi is other orders, this path uses Viz to fuel spells and magical items.

The Path of Words or Names is rare, even for seasoned Jihine. It departs of the core belief that spells and charms invite the cooperation of magical energies. The Path of Names changes focus from the energy to the Magi themself and allows control of objects, creatures, or beings. This path is believed by some to be connected to Cain and the use of the language of Adam, though Jihine insist that is not true.

The Path of Blood is a magic of last resort. The Magi offers their own soul to fuel a spell. It allows for powerful magics, but cost great injury to the Magi, an often death. Jihine use this path only when someone is in immediate and grave danger.

Jihine Icons

Icons represent elements of creation. They are used in Jihine to determine the type of magical effect. They are:

  • Dolphin - WESU (WAY-soo): Represents the sea, all the creatures of the sea, and liquids.
  • Dragon - AJU (AH-yoo): Represents the sky, objects and creatures in the sky, flight, and gases.
  • Fox - BAFO (BAH-foh): Represents the ground, metals, all the creatures and things that live above the ground, and domestication.
  • Tree - SUDU (SOO-doo): Represent plants, creatures that live above the ground, and wood.
  • Star - PAFI (PAH-fee): Represents objects above the sky, the souls of living things, and the mind.

Jihine Voices

Jihine forces direct energy to generate magical effects. The source of the energy is determined by the path the Magi is using. The voices are:

  • Push - BAKI (BAH-kee): The push voice directs energy toward another creature or object.
  • Pull - DIBE (DEE-bay): The pull voice uses energy to pull from another creature or object. Whatever is pulled is then directed elsewhere or dissipates into nothingness.
  • Bind - FAJO (FAH-yoh): The bind voice uses magical energy to bind a target to a person, place, thing, or effect.
  • Admix - HITE (HEE-tay): The admix voice uses magical energy to combine one or more things or qualities.


There's more to do, like generating spells as well as better defining new/forbidden Virtues and Flaws. Their one trait that I enjoy is that Jihine do not tend to keep secrets, instead choosing to find connections in all things.That said, the Jihine are not meant to be the unknowable exotic tradition. Lacking a definitive and history allows you to fill in the blanks. You could place them amongst the Scottish Druids, emphasizing the tree icon, consider them disapora from Persia, or tie them to Cathay per Issue #11 of Hermes Portal. The goal was to leave them open ended enough to customize. I originally wanted to place them in the Khazar region, but it didn't feel like a good fit. Let me know if you want to me create a homeland for them and I'll make a PDF with that kind of detail.

One Last Thing

To better explain the Path of Blood, the most common spell is an emergency flight back to home base (or as far away as possible). This spell is named A Desperate Exit from Harm. When I create the spell list, this would be categorized as Aju Dibe (Push Dragon Energy). In the language of the Jihine, it is Fini Uso Wu'aju Jedibe Notepa (We-By Means of Blood-Dragon Energy-Push-Home).

It took me over a year, but I finally got the barest of bones out on the blog.

More About the Words of Power

This is the third post in a series about adapting the Words of Power system.

  • The first post that introduces the system as I understand it is here.
  • The second post that covered types of effect words is here.

In the previous post, twenty-five effect words were reduced down to eight. This includes one I created for temporary magic weapons. For the Change effects, I added a house rule that you can only gain the form or abilities of creatures you have encountered and taken a sample of. Instead of listing possible form or function modifications, the list is generated by the creatures the spellcaster has encountered.

Since damage is damage, I condensed all the energy types down to their damage effects. There were fire and cold effect words that did the same amount of damage. so now regardless of energy source, there are three types of damage that can be done. The spellcaster is free to use whatever energy type they want as it makes no difference in terms of damage. (It also allows more than the standard five energy types.)

Body Effect Words

That said, what separated the energy types was that a given effect word did damage and placed a condition of the target(s). That is meaningful, so I have separated the condition effects out and placed them with the Body effects words. This will add back another fourteen effect words if I borrow the fifth edition conditions, but it is worth it. These Body effect words would be separate from Energy words. Adding the conditions gives you paralysis, petrification, charm, invisibility, and so much more. They are powerful words on their own.

That said, these Body words combined with Energy words allow you to duplicate the WoP words, but also invent some fanciful and scary options. What if an acid cloud didn't blind you, but grappled you instead? As a player, a creepy green acidic fog that damaged me, stopped me in place, and nullified speed abilities would terrify me. What if a Flame Dart also stunned me? A sonic wave that also knocked me prone? A gust of wind that charmed me? These are the kinds of spells that interest me because it's more than just whitling down an opponent's hit points.

The Rest of the Body Effect Words

There are a few more Body effect words that are more than conditions. Two of the words, Energy Resistance and Energy Immunity would be moved to the Energy effect words. They were already energy type agnostic, so the specific type is determined at the time of casting the spell.

The Enhance and Perfect Form effect words are identical to those in the Modify effect words from the previous post. Boosting ability scores is handled by those effect words. Yes, this means that a spell caster has to gain a sample to boost a target's ability scores. The Enhance Ability spell ties each of the ability scores to an animal, so it fits with this system pretty well.

That leaves Fortify, which I will simplify to simply add temporary hit points equal to the target's Hit Dice or level.

Like the Energy Immunity and Energy Resistance effect words, it's important to add the Physical Resistance and Physical Immunity effect words. Resistance offers a +4 bonus or rolling advantage to Saving Throws against a specific Body Effect word. Immunity would simply make the target immune to a specific Body Effect word. (It makes me think of a spell that makes the target immune to the effects of being knocked prone like the  Instant Stand ability I've read about somewhere.)

The Fear, Wounding, and Healing Effect Words

There are two Fear effect words that aren't needed anymore now that Frightened is a part of the Body effect words. Fear is simply placing the Frightened effect on a creature.

All but one of the Wounding effect words basically deal damage like energy effect words with the side effect that undead creatures gain hit points. I'll make these reversed healing spells instead.

This brings us to Bleeding Wounds, an effect word that does 1 point of ongoing damage per round. I'll leave that effect word as is.

Healing spells restore hit points, but remove hit points from Undead creatures. Healing spells also remove one or more conditions a target is suffering. Why not have them place the condition on Undead targets as well? It may not make sense in a narrative way and some of the conditions will have no effect, but why not? Stunning Zombies have a meaningful effect, especially if the Cleric is out of commission or otherwise occupied.

This adds two Healing Effect words, Heal (1d6 hit points per caster level) and Cure (remove one Body effect from the target). Healing effect words have the side effect of Harming undead creatures by reducing hit points or placing a Body effect on them.

Adding one more effect word, Harm, is essentially the reverse of Heal.

Progress So Far

In all my posts so far, I've covered 42 effect words from the Pathfinder Words of Power system. So far, I've reduced that down to 23 Words of Power and added what I think is some wild effects.

This post and the previous one should have covered everything that can be done to a target's physical form. In the next post, I'll cover effects that cover the mind before moving on to other effects.

Words of Power for Simpler Games

Thanks and a Link to Recap

I owe a debt to both Keith J Davies and CTP from Giant in the Playground. CTP provided a wonderful guide to WoP in 2013. Keith shared a lot of good thoughts to my post on MeWe. Unfortunately, there is not a good way to link to my post there. (There is no API for posting, either, but that's a story for another time.)

My previous post on the Words of Power system is here.

Keith Always Has Great Ideas

Keith brought up a very good point that the HERO System does a very good job of building powers and could be a useful guide. He suggested changing the Effect Words around Acid, Fire, and Lightning to have certain advantages and limitations. This allows a spellcaster using those words to think carefully about the words being used and not just make Fireball with Complications spells. Here's what he said:

So, lightning might have armor-piercing (in D&D/PF, perhaps a bonus to the save DC), acid is uncontrolled (i.e. does damage for a brief time after the initial attack... fire could work here, but acid arrow exists as precedent), fire might be inherently explosive (does diminishing damage around the target... or in this case, is always an area effect -- small, unless overridden), and so on.

Limitations, lightning might have a side effect or backlash (caster takes damage), acid... dunno offhand, fire might have decreased accuracy (always uses the grenade tables), and so on.

I really like this for a number of reasons. One is that keeping a larger number of Words to use creates more interesting combinations. Another is that by saying that an energy has advantages and drawbacks, the system as a whole encouraging more thoughtful spells and provides a real choice to compare specializing in an energy type or using all of them.

I Do Not Always Have Great Ideas

One of the goals of using Words of Power as some kind of framework to create spells is to make it simpler. However, the system is not difficult now and I've been given advice that would make building certain spells interesting. I'm also concerned that making effects simple makes spells bland. This conflicts with another goal to make spells interesting.

So in the face of so many good things, I'm going to attempt to go a different path.

I love spells that go beyond different ways to damage a target or targets. However, I want to start with them because they feel easier to explain. I'll get into relative values and spell levels later; bear with me to work through the effects. The effects will be fairly generic at first with an ability to specialize and fine tune the spell later.

The Energy Spells

To simplify the Effect Words that center around damage, I generalize damaging spells to 1d6 damage per spellcaster level (max 10d6). Wall spells do 1d8 damage plus the level of the spellcaster to anyone running through the wall (Max 10 points).

This provides two effects words instead of 10: Energy Blast and Energy Wall.

I also want to add another, Energy Weapon. This creates a weapon that does 1d4 damage and lasts a number of rounds equal to the spellcaster's level. The shape of the weapon is irrevelant, it provides a way for a spellcaster to create a temporary magic item that can help the caster or anothe member of the party to temporarily do a specific type of energy damage.

I'll talk about boosts later, but I did want to mention that one of the Meta Words will boost an energy spells by increasing the die type. I plan to use Keith's Dice Progression. (I told you he has good ideas.)

The Change/Enhance/Modify Spells

The Change effect words in WoP focus on partial or full transformations into a beast. The type of beasts are not stated, but based on the effects available to choose, it is obvious that there is a serpentine form, an avian form, and a feline form. Change spells can also increase Armor Class and grant abilities like trip, swimming, darkvision, etc.

To simplify this, the limitation of a partial or total transformation spell effect can only use a creature actually encountered, not researched, but the spellcaster. I'm not ashamed to say that this was inspired by the Wild Kratts. Despite tons of research, the brothers gain no creature powers without fur, feather, or some small sample of an animal. (They traveled in time to gain the powers of a Dodo bird, but that's another story.)

The original WoP has three change effects, but I will name them Modify spells instead and there will be five.

Modify Body Gain the Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or one physical characteristic.
Modify Mind Gain the Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma or memories.
Modify Shape Gain the form, not the special abilities
Modify Soul Be transformed into the target with special abilities
Modify Ability Gain a special ability of the target

Again, there must be an encounter with a creature and a sample taken before these take effect. If your 3rd level spellcaster survived getting a sample of a dragon, congratualtions.

Part Two Coming Later

I'm over 1000 words, so I'll leave off here. More about Divination and Armor spells next time.


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