Thursday, 23 April 2015

Building a Sandbox Campaign, Part 9: Magic and the Fells

fairy Circle by T.H. Thomas, taken from British Goblins

One of the cornerstones of The Fells as a campaign world was that there was to be an actual, physical in-game divide between the mundane world of civilisation and the magical wilderness of adventure. Since I've now reached the stage where I have a map, I should like to take a moment to explore where that barrier lies and the effect that it is.

The Fells campaign is loosely inspired by the sidhe of Irish mythology, and  the broader, Germanic-Celtic folklore of northern Europe. A common feature of these myths is the idea of a faery kingdom or fey realm, to which mortals might be transported, either willingly or unwillingly. Further myths and legends abound concerning ancient sites and faery rings that act as a gateway between the two realms. In the realm of The Fells there are points where the Otherworld of the Ao Sith and the mundane world are one and the same. At these points, there is no divide between the mundane and the magical.

It makes sense to me that such points would correspond with the sites I've selected for various adventures (lairs & ruins), so I shaded these off on my hex-map accordingly. Of course, some of those lairs might be home to more mundane creatures, but I can change my map later. I've also decided that some of these lairs are locations of veritable fey dominions, and so the surrounding hexes for certain locations are shaded, too.

Now, in the post concerning campaign tone I wrote that as well as a mundane and a magical realm, there should also be a hinterland between the two. In campaign terms, this represents a point where the Otherworld's influence is strong, magic works and fey creatures can travel, but it is the two realms are still essentially separate from one another.

Using my hex map above, I then began to shade in all hexes abutting a fey hex, identifying them as on the fey "hinterland". I then shaded in a few extra hexes to link areas together, producing this quite pretty map below.

The Fells- areas of magical influence.

PCs wandering through this map never leave the mundane world: instead, the pass through parts of the mundane world which are also part of the Otherworld, or are particularly close to it. The two worlds are parallel, but largely independent: entering a magenta hex does not mean the character is free to explore the realm of the fey, that would require special enchantment. Likewise, a fey creature can never leave the Otherworld: they might sometimes wander into areas were the mundane and the Otherworld are the same, or close to one another, but if they wander into a mundane hex, they vanish from view. This reinforces my conceptualisation of fey creatures described in this post.

The hinterland squares have special characteristics, for here the Otherworld can be seen but not touched. Henceforth it shall be known as the halfworld, for although it is mundane it is neither here nor there. Here. inhabitants of the Otherworld appear like wraiths or shadows and, if they desire, may fully manifest in this magical part of the mundane world. They may just as easily leave, whereupon they once again take on a semi-corporeal form, appearing as harmless ghosts.

This gives all fey a horrifying power of mundane creatures: they may enter and leave certain parts of their world at will, steal from or harm its inhabitants, then return to somewhere humans will never be able to reach them.

Pan's Labyrinth... scary faeries...

Magical creatures are often protected by an immunity to conventional weapons, and in the Otherworld the majority of creatures experience a boost to their immunity, so that a creature normally vulnerable to silver weapons will only be vulnerable to a +1 magical weapon and so on. Fey creatures without invulnerability can only be hit by silver or magical weapons in the fey realm. In other words, a fey creature is at full strength in the Otherworld, but whilst in the Halfworld it is weaker and more vulnerable.
eg. Naimbh the Bold encounters a band of malevolent redcaps whilst exploring a strange forest in the Halfworld . They attempt to lure her into the Otherworld realm by taunting and attacking her. Because they are not very powerful, she is able to wound them with her mundane sword, Brechwingamen, so the Redcap hop between worlds in the hope that she will not kill them.
They successfully lure her to a point where the Otherworld and Mundane are one [a magenta hex]; here, there powers are augmented and Naimbh's sword appears to pass through them without causing any damage. Remembering the legends concerning such creatures, Naimbh pulls a silver dagger from it's sheath and is able to inflict harm on them.
Overpowered, Naimbh flees, with some of the Redcap in pursuit. They follow her for many miles, but as soon as she leaves the Halfworld, they are unable to maintain chase: fey creatures may not enter the mundane.
Spell casting and magical powers are also affected by the location of the creature. Magic in this campaign is drawn entirely from the Otherworld, and so is at its most potent in that realm. In the mundane world it is subject to severe restrictions. In the Halfworld, where the influence of the Otherworld is strong, magic follows conventional game mechanics.

The full details of the effects on spell casting are listed below:

The Mundane

  • Magical scrolls require an additional round to activate. All spell scrolls will have a 50% chance of summoning a creature.
  • Rods, staves and wands require an additional round to activate. All spell like effects will have a 50% chance of summoning a creature.
  • Potions either operate at 50% efficiency or have their duration reduced by 50%.
  • Katadru (cleric analogues) and other faith-based casters are unable to cast spells;
  • Magic users and Keiwosithe may cast spells but with the following restrictions:
              1. At first level they may only cast read magic.
              2. At 2nd level the may cast read magic and one other first level spell with a 50% chance of failure
              3. At 3rd level they may cast read magic and one other first level spell without restrictions. All other 1st level spells have a 50% chance of failure. They may not cast any second level spells.
              4. At 4th level they have the same restrictions as 3rd level, but may cast one 2nd level spell at 50% chance of failure.
              5. At all subsequent levels the pattern continues: they can cast one spell without random failure at each spell level they know, apart from the highest level. They are unable to cast any spells of their highest level unless they are "usually" able to cast until they learn one more spell at this level, which will have a 50% chance of failure.
              6. All spells, once cast successfully, have a 50% chance of summoning a creature.
The Halfworld
  • Magical items and spell casting function as usual,
The Otherworld
  • Katudru and other faith based casters awaking in the Otherworld may prepare two additional spells for each spell level they know, apart from spells of the highest level they can cast. They may prepare one additional spell of their highest spell level. These spells are lost if they leave the Otherworld.
  • Magic users and Keiwosithe entering the Otherworld automatically gain the ability re-cast one already-prepared spell at every level they have memorised. Additionally, they may spontaneously cast one spell they know (but not necessarily prepared) at each level they can cast except for their highest level spells. This ability is lost if they leave the Otherworld, and not regained until 24 hours after they have left.
  • Magical items function normally.
Gwyn is a sixth level Soit-alo. She begins the day in a woodland in the mundane world, and prepares three first level spells (read magic, magic missile and Sleep), two second level spells (Invisibility and Detect Evil) and two 3rd level spells (Fly, Dispel Magic).
Whilst in the mundane, Gwyn may cast read magic without restrictions. She may cast one other first level spell without restrictions, and one with a fifty percent chance of failure. She may cast one second level spell without restrictions, and one with a fifty percent chance of failure. She may only cast one of her third level spells, and it will have a 50% chance of failure.
Gwyn casts no spells until her party enter the Haunted Forest, which is located in the Halfworld. Here, she may cast her spells with no additional restrictions. During an encounter with a group of bandits, she uses magic missile and sleep.
As her party venture further into the wood, they become aware of an unusual magical presence. They have entered the Otherworld. Shortly, they are ambushed by a group of goblins. Gwyn is able to re-cast one of her spent first level spells, and may cast one each of her second and third level spells again. She may also cast one first level and one second level spell she knows spontaneously for as long as she remains in the Otherworld.
Next time, I will be looking at providing further detail for the base town, Mutshud.

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