Monday, 14 December 2020


This is part of an ongoing series of blogs that begin "this is part of an ongoing series".

True, but irrelevant. This is in fact one of many ancient drafts that is being treated to a almost cursory dusting before presentation to the ravenous appetites of the RPG blogosphere.

Its revival was in part inspired by Semiurge's recent post regarding the New Magical Revolution (NMR—patent pending, but soon OGL will be drafted by my legal team so you can join in too for the small price of your soul). That post is here and the phrase New Magical Revolution is not mentioned once so in years to come when you and your friends are rich off of the fruits of my incredible labour perhaps you will recall that fine July morning when you read those three words and thought that it was a side project by Prince but also how cool are follow on sentences and caffeine?

Actually this is now the fourth time I've tried to write this and I'm totally lost as to how this fits together, so I'm just going to talk a bit about free-form magic. 

Yua performing ritual magic in Netflix series Frontera Verde. Currently available on Netflix.

Acknowledgements & Preamble

I've been thinking of spells as elementals or spirits for a long time, and this seems to be a big feature of THE GLOG. However, credit to give them personalities was probably inspired by this post from Skerples:

Obviously we have to go back to the source and look at Arnold Kemp's magic dice in the early GLOG:

This is how I've been running magic dice and hit dice together:

No PARIAH post is honourable without a link to the Die Trying ruleset. One of the later iterations of this game involved spellcasters collecting magic words to combine and create spell effects.

Invoking a Spirit

In PARIAH the nearest thing to casting a spell is invoking a spirit and giving it a command.

There are 3 ways in which this is achieved:
  1. Through a magical device such as a wand, staff or stone.
  2. By engaging in an elaborate and costly ritual.
  3. Through the wagering of one's own inner power to bring forth a bonded spell-spirit.
The last option would be the closest thing to trad RPG Vancian magic and most closely resembles a spell slot, and the mechanics are fully described in the free rules you can download here: 

Another scene for Frontera Verde. It's not without its faults, but I recommend having a look.


A feature of PARIAH is that spirits belong to one of seven parallel realms, including the Here & Now representing the world most easily understood by the pariah's unenhanced senses.
  1. Here & Now - Becoming an animal, controlling the weather, speaking with animals and plants.
  2. Dawn - The source of life, chaotic and capricious. Illusions & charms, changing shape, mimicry.
  3. There - the land of ancestors. Necromancy and speaking with the dead. 
  4. Dusk - Twilight of civilisation. Technology. Language. Structure. Transport. Insects. Reptiles.
  5. Moon - The Silver Lake. Divination, knowledge, sleep, dream, reflection, imitation.
  6. Sun & Heavens - Fire, lightning, light, creativity.
  7. The Beyond - The realm of nightmare. Confusion, destruction, recreation, psychic wounding.
While these realms don't restrict the spell's effect, they describe the world that the invoked spirit cleaves to, the language it understands. It is an NPC that is willing to follow an instruction, usually in six words or less, provided by the pariah.

Simple Examples

These are serving suggestions only. The point of free-form magic is that players can experiment!

Take [name] this item...
(Here & Now)
The spirit takes the form of a small bird or animal. It will carry an item such a creature is capable of lifting up to (HD) hexes away to an individual known personally to the pariah. It will travel with the speed of the conjured creature. It is immune to enchanted weapons.
Additional dice might be spent to increase the range, the size of the creature or to whisper a message that it will then repeat (no. words equal to additional die-roll). 


Hide my face behind [another's face]
The spirit creates an illusion that disguises the pariah's face as someone known to them. It does not change their height or any other physical details, including their voice. The illusion lasts for (HD) turns.

Additional dice might be spent to increase the duration of the disguise.  


Occupy this body as my servant
The body in this instance might be the whole or part of a recently deceased creature, which then animates as an undead servant of the caster. It only endures for (HD) +1 rounds, during which time it can only follow two word commands from the caster. The creature has (HD) HP and is destroyed at 0 HP.

Additional dice might be spent to increase the duration of the animation, or alternatively the size and power of the creature animated. Conjuring an elemental and binding it to a recently deceased corpse is a more effective way of creating an undead servant.

Take Me to the Other Place
A crack appears in the ground beneath the caster, from which a swarm of ants emerge utterly enveloping them. Within a few seconds they appear to have been devoured by the ants. Instead, the caster has been transported to a remote labyrinth in the realm of dusk.

The pariah may elect to reappear in the same spot in (HD) rounds or appear the following round (HD)x10 feet away, but within their line-of-sight. The pariah can only rematerialize on the surface, as a swarm of ants will manifest and appear to regurgitate them. 

The pain of and disruption of this causes 1d4 temporary WIS/CHA damage to the caster. In addition, for each round they spend in the labyrinth, the must make intelligence checks or be trapped in the labyrinth "forever" (of course, their comrades will be able to embark on a spirit-quest by imbibing vast quantities of cactus buttons to find and rescue them in some form).

Invocation of a spirit of the moon enables the caster to ask a question of the spirit, which it will answer accurately. However, the sum of the words in the question and answer must not exceed 6+(HD).

For example, rolling a "4" gives 4+6=10 words, to be distributed between question and answer:

"Who is my father?" (4 words)

"By blood, Ngangwe; by love, Mbatu." (6 words)

Yes/no questions are usually more efficient. Questions about the future are caveated by an understanding that there are as many future truths as there are possible futures (they may be preceded by "If...").


Strike Them Down, Lord of Sky
The caster points a finger at their intended target within 30'. A bolt of lightning immediately descends from he heavens, inflicting (HD)d6 damage against the target. They may save vs surprise to receive half damage.

Anyone within 30' receives half the initial damage. They may also save vs surprise to half it again. This includes the caster.

Show Them Visions of the Beyond
A spirit of the beyond is invoked, travelling to the indicated (or named) target within the caster's view. For the next (HD) rounds, it will receive visions of the nightmare realm from which the spirit originated.

The target may seek to embrace or fight the visions.

If they choose to fight the vision, they may continue to act as usual, though internally they are battling thoughts of a realm beyond their comprehension. They must save vs. spells each round to avoid receiving 1d(caster's HD) WIS/CHA damage each round.

If they embrace the vision, they are unable to act for the duration of the invocation. Each round they must save vs. spells to avoid receiving 1 point of WIS/CHA damage. The damage is temporary, though a pariah may elect to make the damage permanent and receive the same score as a permanent boost to their intelligence. 

The Rules

You get the general idea: the players and GM should negotiate the desired effect of a spell if it's not already established, with potency being limited by the caster's dice.


  1. This is definitely one of the better magic systems I've seen.

    1. Be sure to check the original iterations by Skerples of Coins and Scrolls and Arnold Kemp of Goblin Punch (link sin the post above).

  2. Damn. This is definitely good.
    Stealable, even.