Concert Casting and Epic Magic

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Prime_Evil
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Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:27 am

Now that Blood Magic is out, I was wondering if there might be room for a new category of spells that can't be cast by a single sorcerer or priest, but are specifically designed to be cast by a group of mages using the rules for Concert Casting on pp.62-66 of that book.

I'm thinking that Concert Casting rules makes it possible to introduce the epic spells that sometimes appear in fantasy fiction - this type of magic typically involves a ritual or ceremony with multiple participants. A good example might be the Turning from Andre Norton's Witch World series (where the Witches of Estcarp attempt to raise a new mountain range, but fumble their roll...badly).

The ritual spells that use concert casting should be extremely rare and gaining access to them should be very difficult. For example, the characters might need to recover a lost grimoire from demon-haunted ruins deep within the southern jungles in order to acquire a single spell of this nature. Gaining access to one of these spells should be the focus of an entire adventure. In many campaign settings, they represent the fragments of ancient lore from a time when magic was more powerful.

Here are a few (very) rough ideas for the kind of new spells that could use these rules:
  • Rain of Fire - This spell is similar to the Rain of Blood spell, but causes droplets of fire to rain down upon the area of effect.
  • Earthquake - Causes a powerful earthquake that topples buildings within a certain radius. This spell should be potent enough to flatten an entire city when cast by a large concert. This may be the spell cast by Xaltotun at the opening of Robert E. Howard's Hour of the Dragon (aka Conan the Conqueror).
  • Tsunami - Summons a massive tidal wave that devastates a coastal region, destroying port cities and sweeping far inland.
  • Legion of the Dead - Raises all of the corpses in a graveyard or on a battlefield as animated skeletons and forces them to obey the leader of the concert.
  • Howl of the Damned - Summons all of the ghouls in a geographical region, providing the leader of the concert with control over them for a single night.
  • Hellgate - Opens a portal to the netherworld that spews forth a seemingly endless horde of minor demons. The demons devastate the area around the open hellgate, but cannot travel more than a kilometer or two from the place where they emerged or they will automatically discorporate - returning to the depths of hell.
  • Wraithstorm - Causes hundreds of vengeful spirits to erupt from a rift to the sprit world, temporarily manifesting on the material plane.
  • Plague Wind - Inflicts a terrible plague upon the inhabitants of a region. The pestilence spreads rapidly, striking down rich and poor alike. Extremely contagious, it is incurable by normal means. However, only those within the area of effect at the time when the spell was cast
  • Divine Wrath - Invokes the wrath of a deity to smite a location in a display of raw divine power. The biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a good example of how this would work in practice - maybe the spell can only be used against cities or temples that have fallen into apostasy?
  • Black Eclipse - Summons a cloud of darkness that blots out the sun, allowing unclean things such as vampires to walk abroad during the day. While the unnatural eclipse remains in the sky, the power of necromantic spells is enhanced and the power of healing spells is diminished.
  • Undead Colossus - Melds together dozens of corpses to create a huge undead colossus capable of destroying castles and other fortified structures - I am thinking of the monstrosity created by Nathaire and his apprentices in the Clark Ashton Smith short story The Colossus of Ylourgne
Do people think think that it is worth developing these as a new category of ritual spells that can only be cast using the rules for Concert Casting? Or are they simply too powerful for the Legend game system?
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby rust » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:18 am

While I would consider them as much too powerful for any
of my settings, there are certainly others who would like
to use such truly epic magic in their campaigns, so I think
you should go ahead. :wink:
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Fonso » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:25 am

Magic of that scale reminds me to Birthright setting.

It was a campaing setting for AD&D where the characters were kings and archmages. There were several scales of magic: adventuring magic (normal AD&D magic), battle magic (able of change battles) and realm magic (ritual magic affecting entire provinces and their inhabitants).

Something similar mixed with the rules of the Empires book could be very interesting.
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Prime_Evil
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:13 pm

rust wrote:While I would consider them as much too powerful for any
of my settings, there are certainly others who would like
to use such truly epic magic in their campaigns, so I think
you should go ahead. :wink:
To be honest, I wouldn't put any of these spells in the hands of PCs either. However, they make good powers for the major villains of a campaign setting to weild. And because they can only be cast in a ceremonial ritual that requires the use of the Concert Casting rules, the bad guys who have access to them must have a support organization of some sort - whether it be a sorcerous order or a divine cult. I'm thinking that the existence of spells like this might provide a justification for powerful sorcerors and evil high priests to surround themselves with of legions of black-robed cultists, acolytes, and similar minions. Although the major villain has the magical knowledge essential to weild world-shaking magical power, he can't actually complete the ritual necessary to cast such powerful spells without the assistance of his minions. And because he must teach at least his inner circle some of his secret lore so that they can participate effectively in the ritual casting, there is always the risk that an ambitious lieutenant might decide to betray him.

Indeed, the more that I think about it, putting these kind of powers in the hands of a villain can help to justify many of the classic tropes of swords and sorcery fiction...
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:23 pm

Fonso wrote:Magic of that scale reminds me to Birthright setting.

It was a campaing setting for AD&D where the characters were kings and archmages. There were several scales of magic: adventuring magic (normal AD&D magic), battle magic (able of change battles) and realm magic (ritual magic affecting entire provinces and their inhabitants).

Something similar mixed with the rules of the Empires book could be very interesting.
I hadn't really considered the Realm Magic from the Birthright setting as a possible point of reference, but I suppose that it could be a valid comparison. If you allow the rules for Concert Casting to be truly open-ended, there is theoretically no upper limit to what can be achieved with it. Personally, I think that the chance of a catastrophic mishap should increase as the number of members of the concert grows - which would tend to place a practical limit on how crazy it is possible to get with the rules - but this is very much a matter of taste.

I agree that these rules could be used in conjunction with the Empires book in various interesting ways and live in hope that someday we will see an Empires of Legend product so that I can tinker with those rules too :D
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:38 pm

I like the idea. I agree that it is probably too powerful for a PC group, but for use by NPCs in a High Magic game, I think it would be awesome.

Also, you can control the amount of power by the number of Casters needed. If 20 or so casters with Skill of 90% or more are needed to cast a spell, then it isn't like it will be a spell cast every day.
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby DamonJynx » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:28 am

Prime_Evil wrote: Indeed, the more that I think about it, putting these kind of powers in the hands of a villain can help to justify many of the classic tropes of swords and sorcery fiction...
Absolutely. I think you should work on this. It really is a good idea and would make a great article for S&P if it ever sees daylight again (that damn Black Eclipse spell!).
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:47 pm

They're only vague ideas at the moment, but I've started to write them up. One problem that I've run into is determining what the upper limit of what can be done with ceremonial magic.

The main limitations that exist in the rules are:

A concert can only use high magic known to all of its members.
The combined value of the magical skills available to the group is limited by the sum of their Concert skills.

I'm leaning towards an additional restriction that increases the risk of a mishap as the number of participants in the Concert grows. At the moment, the risk of a mishap seems to be the same for a Concert consisting of three spellcasters and one that consists of three hundred. But I would argue that as the size of the ritual grows, so should the chance that somebody screws up during the casting. After all, it only takes one dim-witted acolyte to flub his lines at a critical point in the ceremony...

I think that a large Concert should be allowed to "buy off" the increased risk of a mishap by taking extra time to perform the ritual. Effectively the leader of the Concert plays it safe and makes sure that everybody knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing during the ceremony. But taking extra time obviously increases the risk that a rival faction will attempt to disrupt the ritual.

What these proposed changes mean in practice is that there is an effective limit to how big Concerts can get before ritual magic becomes too dangerous to perform. This places a natural upper limit on how crazy you can get - if you can't have more than a dozen sorcerers in a Concert, you aren't going to be able to sink Atlantis without breaking a sweat. You can still do some very impressive things if you take extra time to perform the ritual carefully, but this isn't always possible - especially when you have a bunch of adventurers trying to break down the door in order to rescue the sacrificial virgin shackled to the altar.

I'm fairly comfortable with the idea of a evil high priest and a dozen black-robed cultists casting a spell that could devastate a single city, but I'm a bit uncomfortable with the idea of Concerts consisting of hundreds of participants that weild truly godlike powers.
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Simulacrum » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:14 pm

There must be some handy 'setting' limitations - the Concert skill only taught to the higher echelons of a specific cult for example - but needs some colour to describe why the particular cult or order doesn't min/max itself. Maybe the rest of its offering is deeply unpopular, and there's only so many madmen they can find to take part. Or literacy itself is highly restricted, and Concert requires it. Or it's a single bloodline that is capable of the skill, noone else can learn it. And they need one more to make up nukbers and are looking everywhere for the lost relative they need to summon that demon, and he doesn't want to play...etc
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:15 pm

Well, the traditional Coven had 13 members... 12 Casters and a "Director"?????

Perhaps with extra special care you could have a Coven of Covens... 13x13 casters. Each of the Lesser Covens would be directed by a Priest, but the other 12 would likely just be Lay People taught enough to contribute to the spell, but not enough to really control it...
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby superc0ntra » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:43 am

That type of spells would be very interesting to use as Dragon magic in the Dark Sun conversion I am working on.
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:16 pm

superc0ntra wrote:That type of spells would be very interesting to use as Dragon magic in the Dark Sun conversion I am working on.
I've been messing around with some draft rules, but haven't had time to work on them for a few days due to work commitments. Hopefully, I can do some work on the draft this weekend.
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Re: Concert Casting and Epic Magic

Postby alex_greene » Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:42 pm

The Concert skill gets its day in Arcania of Legend: Blood Magic. It does function pretty much as described. Everybody participating has to sing from the same hymn sheet or the same Grimoire, Path, School, whatever. Everybody's Grimoire and Manipulation are added together and everyone's Concert is added up, and the maximum percentage available amounts to the sum of the Concert skills. The director then allocates the dice to Grimoire / Intensity or to Manipulation, and everybody spends their Magic Points as if it was a solo effort.

I'm sure that you could work in the extended task rules from Arms of Legend to make even more epic spells.
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