Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wizards of Averoigne: A Rainbow of Spell-Casters

Since yesterday, my brain has been chewing on some of the ideas that I came up with on the subject of anti-clerics, arcane cleric spells and cleric spell books. Since my ideas found fertile soul in a Holmsian-inspired vision of D&D, I figured the best place to implement them was in my standard Holmsian-esque campaign world: Averoigne. I also figured that since Holmes was influenced by Tolkien, so should I.

Although I have never read the Lord of the Rings more than once in my life, I do remember that there is a suggestion of an order of wizards whose status is determined by color. As I recall, three colors are explicitly mentioned: white, grey and brown. Thus, in a world where there is a strong guild-structure, it makes sense that Averoigne would pay homage to Tolkien by differentiating different types of arcane spell casters by color:
White Magic-Users: So-called because they practice white magic — arcane cleric spells. They must be Lawful* and they cannot cast any spells above 3rd level.

Black Magic-Users: So-called because they practice black magic — arcane magic-user spells. They are usually Chaotic and exist outside of the guild-structure and society itself. As a result, they are considered dangerous criminals to be hunted down and (usually) killed.

Grey Magic-Users: So-called because they practice black magic in context of the Church — a mixture of black and white. They can be Lawful or Neutral and must belong to the Wizard’s Guild.

Brown Magic-Users: So-called because they are seen as close to the earth — operating mostly in villages, towns or as hermits. They use arcane cleric spells and have no formal guild. Since they practice white magic, they are generally left alone (which opens the possibility that individual brown magic-users may have a spell or two from the druid spell list). They tend to be neutral and can gain a maximum of 6th level in experience.

Red Magic-Users: So-called because the casting of reverse cleric spells normally involves some kind of blood sacrifice. These are anti-clerics. They are Chaotic and exist outside of the guild-structure and society itself. As a result, they are considered dangerous criminals to be hunted down and (usually) killed.

*Assuming one is using the three-tier alignment system.
The Prime Requisite in all cases is Intelligence which also determines the chance of knowing a particular spell as well as the minimum and maximum number of spells known per spell level (as per Holmes). Practitioners of white magic use the cleric spell progression and XP table and may use armor, shields and blunt weapons but cannot Turn Undead. If they are Lawful and have a Wisdom of at least 9 they can choose to become full-fledged clerics at any time after 3rd level (they gain access to all spells through faith instead of study and can Turn undead).

There is also a third type of arcane magic — sword magic. It interferes with both white and black magic. The latter is the most susceptible and therefore practitioners cannot wear any armor and can only use simple weapons. White magic is less susceptible, but practitioners cannot use bladed or piercing weapons.

Technically, this means that clerics could use any type of weapon they choose (since they cast divine magic, not arcane magic); however, by tradition they limit themselves to blunt weapons to prevent any use of sword magic lest they misplace their faith in God with a faith in sword magic. Thus, any cleric that uses a magic sword cannot cast any spells, because they lack the faith to do so (or believe that they are called to use sword magic instead of divine magic). This opens up the possibility of a paladin-like cleric who can Turn undead, use magic swords (like a holy avenger) but can’t cast spells.

I don’t know how attractive any of these options are to players, but they open up a tremendous amount of opportunities for cool NPCs, cool villains and cool patrons for yours truly.


JB said...

So, then, are there "normal" clerics in the setting (of the type that turns undead and 'raises' fallen comrades?)?

FrDave said...

Yes, the ones that use divine magic (as opposed to white magic). They can Turn Undead, cast 4th+ level spells, etc.

Clovis Cithog said...

I also divide magic by alignment, but use use the good-evil and law-chaos axis giving PCs a wider choice of spells or allowing them to becoming a true specialist (i.e., NG has dominion of healing. light and water) .. I posted about THIS on B/X black razor ytd, but for your edification ...

Clearly, there is a historical distinction between divine or arcane based spell craft. Prior to the papal inquisition and the Renaissance, magic was seen as a natural force under dominion of (not in opposition to) God. Witchcraft or harmful magic was a crime prosecuted under secular courts and not necessarily demonic or diabolical in origins. Other forms of magic (alchemy, dowsing, fortune telling, etc.) were often practiced openly and tolerated in the middle ages. Physicians and surgeons would be consider magicians (Dr. Jekyll, Faust, etc.) while divine healing is from priests.

In western Europe, It was confessions obtained (many thru torture) during the papal inquisition of the 13th century that prompted the movement of the jurisdiction of harmful magic or witchcraft from secular to church courts.

There was a distinction in the High Middle Ages (11-13th century) between naturalistic, arcane or magical knowledge from that of divine power and wisdom. Most magic of this period was concerned with activities that dominated everyday life such as crop growth, romance, husbandry, child bearing, weather etc.

Two examples from our own Earth’s history:
Agrippa wrote one of the seminal texts on ceremonial magic and alchemy, yet he was a devout Christian.
Born in 1365 AD, the medieval author Christine de Pizan was the daughter of the court physician / astrologer for the Christian King of France.
Unlike pagan priests, clerics have a professional, scholarly and salaried hierarchy. The first universities of the medieval world were founded as religious centers of learning that teach in the official church language; Latin in the Catholic West and Greek in the 0rthodox East.

FrDave said...

Which is why I am including grey & white magic users. They very nicely reflect an historic reality that you highlight here.

Unknown said...

"As I recall, three colors are explicitly mentioned: white, grey and brown."

There were also the "Blue Istari," two wizards who went East. They don't figure beyond a passing mention in LotR, but are discussed a bit in "Unfinished Tales." There's some speculation here:

FrDave said...

I was hoping someone would give other references...I never read Unfinished Tales, which explains why I don't remember them from the passing mention in LotR. Thank you.

FrDave said...

Blue Magic-Users — Practitioners of both white and black magic. Similar to the way elves in the LBBs dual-class, blue magic-users must choose which type of magic they will use at the beginning of a session and gain XP for that class — either the cleric or mu progression. Like the LBB elves, they can wear magic chain mail while casting black magic — hence the name "blue" in reference to the color of the metal that is normally used to make such armor. Note that the maximum number of spells known according to INT would include both spell lists — it wouldn't be applied separately. Thus, normally only high INT magic-users choose this path and they are the most rare of the non-Chaotic types. They are normally Lawful or Neutral and must belong to the Wizard's Guild.

Unknown said...

You're on a roll, Father. :

Hobo Ogre said...

Nice! But it lacks symmetry (I'm odd about that):

If your three primary colors are:
- Red
- Black
- White

then your three secondary colors are:
- Brown (between Black and Red) [mentioned]
- Grey (between Black and White)[mentioned]
- and? (between Red and White?) [new]


Pink Wizards - Follow their patron saint, St. Valentine, and obey his creed to learn arcane clerical spells that heal, cure, restore or otherwise negate ill effects. Are often Neutral (but may be any), female (but males are known) and preside over a vast majority of marriages. Can cast up to 5th Level spells as long as they curative or restorative, including Raise Dead. They have no guild but are generally considered an integral part of their community.