In Torchbearer— as in B/X Dungeons & Dragons— magic spells are highly self-contained things. They give you all the rules you need to use them, and they only very rarely note how they might interact with other spells. This is a cool, old-school approach to magic and keeps things lightweight and usable.
But inevitably over time a GM and players will find a use for general categories of magic. These are traditionally handled by so-called "magic schools" and they can be really helpful in a few ways:
- wording magic items that enhance spell casting of a specific type
- setting a tone for what kind of spells a magician ought to know or teach
- allowing magicians to specialize in certain spell types (e.g. illusionist or necromancer)
- interpreting the results of Supernal Vision without simply giving away metagame information
...and of course, my personal favorite:
- creating competing factions of wizards who hate each other's guts
For today's Mordite Monday we shall invent new schools of magic for use in Torchbearer!
The Old Schools
Schools first appeared in AD&D to allow specialized magicians and generalized rules about certain types of magic. The eight schools (and the universalist school) changed names and swapped some spells over the various editions, but they remain a really solid, useful game concept that we can adopt in Torchbearer.
However, there was a lot of overlap between the classic D&D schools. That could be a real sticking point for specialist mages or any players who hadn't memorized the exceptions. The nine new schools given here for Torchbearer try to make it as clear as possible what spell belongs to what school.
The New Schools
Each school has the following characteristics:
Aura: A color to be used for describing divinations like Supernal Vision.
Province: The concepts governed primarily by the school.
Noted Spells: A list of spells thought to belong to the school. The source of the spells is noted in parenthesis.
- Torchbearer (TB1)
- Torchbearer Playtest Spells (PS)
- Torchbearer Gazetteer: Middarmark (TGM)
- The (upcoming) Grind Zine (GZ)
Apotheosis: A 5th Circle spell that reflects the pinnacle of the school.
Province: Time - Speed - Divination (Future and Past)
Noted Spells: Aura of Continuation (GZ), Eye of Omens (TB1), Lightning Step (PS), Sign of Abrogation (PS)
Apotheosis: Temporal Bubble - Suspends the grind for a small group.
Province: Teleportation - Location - Space - Divination (Present)
Noted Spells: Cosmic Gate (GZ), Eye of the Overworld (PS), Numinous Sigil (PS)
Apotheosis: Cant of Translocation - Allows teleportation as far as the horizon.
Province: Enchantment - Compulsion - Deception - Emotion - Control
Noted Spells: Daemonic Stupefaction (TB1), Devilish Laughter (TB1), Greybeard’s Bane (TB1), Horse-trader’s Friend (TGM), Lord of Dreams (TB1), Puissant Suggestion (PS), Thread of Friendship (TB1), Wormtongue (PS)
Apotheosis: Puppet Mastery - The caster assumes bodily control of a victim for a time.
Province: Abjuration - Force - Warding - Energy - Movement - Aether
Noted Spells: Apotropaic Circle (PS), Eagle’s Dance (PS), Eldritch Darts (PS), Lightness of Being (TB1), Mystic Porter (TB1), Rhyme of Opening (TB1), Wizard’s Aegis (TB1), Word of Binding (TB1)
Apotheosis: Force of Will - A mastery of force which can ward areas or fling enemies off into the sky.
Province: Death - Undeath - Spirits - Decay
Noted Spells: Shroud of Shadows (TB1), Spectral Snare (GZ), Wisdom of the Sages (TB1)
Apotheosis: Killing Word
Province: Perception - Illusion - Invisibility
Noted Spells: Celestial Music (TB1), Eyes of the Bat (PS), Phantasmal Vision (TB1), Simulacrum (PS), Veil of the Chameleon (TB1)
Apotheosis: Phantom Prison
Province: Creation - Energy - Elements - Objects
Noted Spells: Balefire (PS), Dweomercraft (PS), Gelid Gust (GZ), Hammer of Heaven (PS), Incandescent Beacon (PS), Sailor’s Friend (PS)
Apotheosis: Falling Stars - see below
Province: Extraplanar entities and forces, miracles
Noted Spells: Most uncorrupted prayers of all alignments, Aetherial Swarm (PS), Destiny of Heroes (TB1), Empyreal Messenger (TB1), Otherworld Sentry (TGM), Whispers on the Wind (PS)
Apotheosis: World Rift - a gate between realities summons a powerful angel or demon.
Province: Transformation - Life - Creatures
Noted Spells: Arcane Semblance (TB1), Mantle of the Fylgja (TGM), Viscid Discharge (GZ), Water Lung (TB1)
Apotheosis: Transmogrification - the mage takes whatever forms desired in quick succession.
At character creation or upon attaining a new mentor you may choose one school as your specialty school. Choose a second school to represent your opposition school. You may only specialize in a single school.
- Your raiment becomes the color of your school's aura.
- Gain +1D to Arcanist, Scholar, and Lore Master tests involving your specialty school.
- Gain +1D on circles tests when dealing with magicians of your own school.
- Suffer an additional factor on Arcanist, Scholar, and Lore Master tests in your opposition school.
- Suffer an additional factor on Circles when dealing with Magicians of the opposition school.
The spells of apotheosis named above are merely tantalizing hints. They are rare and closely guarded by arch-magi. They shall be revealed in due time, but I will not leave you empty handed. Behold, the apotheosis of the school of Synthesis, the devastating Falling Stars:
5th Circle Spell (Synthesis)
With a word, the archmage calls down the planets of the heavens to obliterate the strongholds of her enemies.
- Supplies: a lump of skymetal
- Learn: Lore Master Ob 4
- Scribe Scroll: Scholar Ob 6
- Inscribe Spellbook: Scholar Ob
Area (start at 2): a single room, two rooms, three rooms
Depth: exposed to surface, one level deep, two levels deep, three levels deep
Protection (start at 2): the caster, one additional, two additional, three additional
The magician creates a swarm of meteorites which plummet down from on high to obliterate a room or series of rooms they have seen. Once cast, there is a brief delay as the stones fall; they may, in fact, be visible to anyone under open sky. Scrambling to safety requires an individual Health test with a factor determined by the GM based on the layout of the doomed area. If a conflict breaks out after casting but before the impact, the impact occurs at the end of the third round.
Any mortal creature caught in the impacted area is slain, regardless of previous condition. Any treasure in the area is utterly destroyed. The room is devastated and may be removed from the map if structural considerations warrant it.
The archmage may use a portion of her power to protect one or more individuals in the area. Use the Protection factors to increase the casting obstacle for each ward. The caster must be first among the warded; they must remain nearby to provide protection.
Art by Adric Giles and Mike Boroda (taken from backer rewards for the Grind Zine)