I want to see some crazy wizbiz!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
I want to see some crazy wizbiz!
Have you ever wanted to go to a magical school with a statistically significant (though not overly high) mortality rate, a high chance that at least one of your professors is evil, and felt that Hogwarts lacked the critical element of crippling student loan debt? Welcome to the Colleges of Magic! Realms of Sorcery is the magic sourcebook for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition, and was one of the earlier sourcebooks for the game line. It contains a ton of history of magic in the Empire (and the wider world), plenty of speculation about the nature of magic and how it may relate to the metaphysics of the setting, a few passing theories about the Old Ones, and a story of a supreme state of elf-mind that almost destroyed reality out of shortsighted greed for power. It also contains rules for creating massive magical rituals, flavorful rules for the Winds of Magic slowly reshaping their users, extensive potion rules, and rules for the dwarf equivalent of wizardry: Runesmithing. Also has one of the few pretty decent pre-made adventures involving wine, warpstone, spontaneous combustion, and a vampire-on-ulrican-on-Italian brawl. We're in for a good time once we're past the mediocre intro fiction.
Said intro fiction is the story of a young apprentice whose masters get all involved in trying to summon and study a demon, it kills everyone before running out of juice because aethyric beings like demons can't remain in reality long without fuel (which they often get by killing), and he steals the golden instruments and heads for the hills to try to get rich in the chaos. Don't summon demons. We were over that back in Tome of Corruption; never works out.
Magic is an arcane and unnatural force that spills into this realm through the broken gate the Old Ones once used to travel the universe. Magic is primarily defined as a power of transmutability and change in the Warhammer context; unbound by spells (which order the change it is meant to invoke) it will tend to randomly change its surroundings (inducing mutation, among other things) before expending this unnatural energy and dissipating. Why magic works how it works, how it gets shaped into (and by) Gods and Demons and Chaos Gods is the subject of much debate in setting, with elves, humans, and others having many different opinions on the matter. Nearly everyone in the setting will acknowledge that they don't know the whole truth of the Aethyr, or Warp, or Void, or whatever they decide to call it this time, and it is instinctively known to all things that there are realms of magic and sorcery that exist concurrent to and beyond the physical world.
Priests would usually tell you that there are multiple realms beyond the realm of the physical, like Morr's underworld or a Realm of Sigmar produced by the God's abiding grace and power. They would tell you that the Gods create these islands of order within the spiritual realm as places to work against the foul machinations of Chaos, and that places like the Realm of Morr will protect a dead mortal's soul from the depredations of the Chaos Gods. A wizard would be more likely to say these all exist within the same realm of the metaphysical, and that the Gods may well simply be a reflection of the better nature of mortal beings in the same way the Chaos Gods are a reflection of their hatred, lust, despair, and dickery. Most wizards are smart enough to refrain from going full New Atheist and claiming the Gods are merely a more seemly and very powerful form of demon, because the Gods can smite you. Most of these beliefs are true in part, though the exact admixture of truth and who you end up giving more weight to is up to an individual GM and their table.
To talk about magic, we have to talk about what little is known of the Old Ones, those who came before. These are the creatures who, if the tales are true, moved the world from an orbit that had it as a frozen ice ball and turned it into a habitable planet for the common Old Worlder. The only remaining records of these beings comes from ancient, half-remembered mystery cults among the elves and glimpses of the great tablets of the Slaan in Lustria. It is unknown if the Old Ones themselves taught the first elves how to shape the tiny leakages of magic from their spectacular Gate of Heaven, or if the Slaan or another servitor race did the work instead. It is also unknown why they did so. It is said that the Old Ones were able to shape, create, and bind entities that the Old World would call Gods, and we get the implication from the story of a Chaos sorcerer who bargained for a glimpse of them that they may well have created life mostly as slaves and experiments rather than out of any sort of sense of benevolence, life which then invited Chaos into the world to liberate it and inadvertantly nearly destroyed itself and destroyed its creators (of course, consider the source). It's left open what the Old Ones wanted, why they did any of what they did, and what, exactly, happened to them.
What matters is that the Gate of Heaven exploded and left a huge, gaping hole in reality that spilled raw change all over everything. The Great Collapse would have been bad enough if it had simply seen tides of devils and horrors marching south; it also featured all grounding and stability slowly beginning to drain from the world. Food could suddenly decide it didn't nourish. Air could change into something unbreathable. Mountains shifted like clay and the world's orbit wobbled dangerously as fundamental forces of reality buckled. Some degree of Chaos and Change is necessary for the world to function, according to some magisters, but when you have a tide of it things get ugly. This is also where we first get warpstone. As the intense power of change encountered the grounding of reality, it would sometimes cool and congeal under the pressure of existence and become a hardened, crystalline substance beloved of ratmen.
Another important element of the Collapse is that this is where we first start to see the 'good' Gods in force. Whether they had always existed but never been so empowered before, or whether they are the creation of the dreams and desires of the peoples of the world suddenly springing to life to defend their creations in a time of reality crisis, we cannot say. Demons began to take nightmarish shapes based on the fears and legends of the people of the world, the minds of the mortals choosing the shape of their destroyer. What's interesting is that even in the midst of this nightmare, Chaos still began to solidify and conform to what it encountered in the realm of reality.
Next Time: A Supreme State of Elfmind: Aenarion and Asuryan
This elven kingdom was founded on bad ideas and listening to cursed swords and by God it's staying that way
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
This elven kingdom was founded on bad ideas and listening to cursed swords and by God it's staying that way
Now, the elves had not been designed for war, or really much of anything besides sitting in their perfect, engineered habitat where they'd be safe and prosperous forever. I like to think the Old Ones originally built elves as pets, myself. This is partly because is means what happens next is the equivalent of a bunch of pampered little pomeranians going wild and saving the world after the collapse of civilization and I think we can all get behind that. The elves were absolutely not ready for the Collapse (no-one was) and found their beautiful island habitat swarmed by devils and its many spells of plenty and perfection disrupted by the raw energy of change leaking out of the wound in reality left by the exploding Gate of Heaven. This means that when the first demons hit Ulthuan and found the locals already reeling from famine, disease, and other anomalies they'd never had to deal with before, they both found plenty of elves willing to surrender and do whatever the invaders said to survive and plenty of elves to just murder for fun.
However, when things looked their worst, an elven noble named Aenarion managed to call down the newly empowered old elven chief God, Asuryan, and merge with a portion of his power, becoming a demigod of 'Elven dignity, culture, and self-belief'. That's right, the shining virtue of the greatest hero of the elven people was partly 'being really smug about being an elf'. In this new supreme state of Elfmind he was able to impart the arts of war to the other elves and organize a defense against the tide of demons. Ulthuan was cleared of hellish monsters and Aenarion made friends with an ambitious and powerful mage named Caledor Dragontamer, because he had tamed and made alliance with dragons. They held for about a century (There's no mention of the Slaan holding Lustria in this book, but be assured it was going on at the same time) as it became increasingly clear that this war was, at present, unwinnable. As long as the enemy has infinite demons and you need 30 years, at least, to get an elf up to fighting speed the simple matter of attrition makes victory impossible.
Into this mess, Caledor came up with a plan. The problem was the endless spill of chaotic energy from the north; if the energy could be directed and dissipated back out into the void rather than letting it fester on the world, Chaos could lose the ability to manifest infinitely in reality. However, speaking through Aenarion, Asuryan objected to this plan; it would also limit the power of Gods like him, and isn't the world being rent apart in an infinite void of hellish sorrow worth the presence of ASURYAN, great Phoenix Lord? Surely a little thing like the apocalypse happening shouldn't get in the way of the personal power of the king of the Gods. As you might gather, Asuryan is a bit of a dick. As the battles got worse, Aenarion was forced to draw forth the sword of Khaine, the elven God of murder, and when he did, Khaine eagerly punched Asuryan in the face within his soul and started a tussle for who gets to drive the elf king. This distracted the poor, dumb, increasingly insane bastard long enough for Caledor to get together a bunch of wizards, get him to sign off on the containment plan, and scurry off to the center of Ulthuan before the king could say no.
By the time Aenarion realized he'd been defied, he had no choice but to get an army together and follow the wizards; he couldn't hold the island without them anyway. The Isle of the Dead, as it came to be known, was chaotic with battle and the usual epic warhammer murder spree began until Caledor just barely managed to get off his spell, creating the Vortex and trapping himself and his fellow magi in time at the moment of their triumph. The Vortex of power keeps Chaos at a lower level and ensures that demons and things cannot remain indefinitely in reality; the creation of the Vortex saved the world. So yes, this one time, against the advice of their King and their King of the Gods, the elves did, in fact, absolutely save the world.
Meanwhile, millennia later, the humans found their kingdom under the great Emperor Sigmar. The book goes into why the Empire initially distrusted all arcane magic. Firstly, Sigmar was a warrior with no magical ability himself; he'd managed to overcome plenty of Chaotic foes as well as the various orks and goblins and so felt that anyone should be able to manage with a strong right arm and a big hammer. Secondly, the Empire was taught much by their dwarven friends and allies, who also distrusted and hated arcane magic outside of their steady, reliable runework. Given how much the Empire learned from the dwarves, and how close their friendship was in the early days, it simply followed that when their allies told the humans that magic was unsafe and unreliable, the humans listened. Thirdly, there existed no unified human magical tradition in the region that could make magic safe, and so most attempts to experiment with it ended in fires and tentacles. And fourthly, one of Sigmar's great battles was against Nagash the Great Necromancer, who very nearly killed the Emperor before getting his skull stoved in with a hammer. Given those four points, it's perfectly understandable that Sigmar outlawed the use and study of magic; a mistake, but an understandable one.
This continued for a long time, especially among Sigmar's own cult after he vanished and was said to have become a God. It can't be denied that where the Empire's cults preached against wizards, there were fewer plagues, fewer demon incursions, less mutation, and fewer beastmen. With this correlation in mind, measures against suspected mages grew harsher and harsher in the name of 'protecting the community', and witch-burnings first entered the popular consciousness. For every hedge wizard who might've brought ruin down on the community, the templars burned several suspects and innocents. Preachers railed against a plague of magic that simply didn't exist. Meanwhile, as they were busy burning people who didn't fit in or who had minor deformities, the actual Chaos Sorcerers were powerful enough to hide from most of the mobs and work their dark and insidious schemes, especially when they could rescue someone of talent from the mob. With no formalized study of or regulation of magic, magic fell increasingly to those who could ignore the law. The wealthy and powerful could dabble in magic (and secretly fall to the dark) as the poor burned in the streets.
Once again, the book is remarkably clear on this explicit link; it talks about how these 'burning times' (oi) were a self-fulfilling prophecy. The hunters feared mages would fall to darkness if allowed to practice or study, but in attacking so indiscriminately and wielding lethal force so widely, they created a situation where anyone with magic talent would be tempted to turn to powers that could protect them. Once again, Chaos profited from repression and fear. If you were going to be treated as a pawn of darkness whatever you did, why not go with the forces that promised actual protection from the zealots? Many of the early cult magi fell to darkness because they were pushed.
Next Time: Magnus the Pious and the power of foresight
A brief diversion, then Magnus
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
A brief diversion, then Magnus
I'd like to take a moment to go into one of the cool things the book does; there are a bunch of little in-character diversions during the big fluff dump, written by different master Magisters at different times (with occasional interludes with the High Elf Loremaster Teclis) talking about their various theories of the Aethyr. They're not only interesting in their own right, but they get at one of the cool parts of Fantasy in WHFRP2e's fluff: The people who live in it are actively trying to figure out its mysteries, and in so doing present a bunch of different possible explanations for things that a gaming group could use. They aren't content to sit around praising ignorance the way 40k Imperials were. For instance, a Metal Magister looks at the way things shape themselves to the thoughts and hopes of mortals and concludes from it that even thought is more 'real' than the raw unreality of the Aethyr, and thus on encountering it it molds and 'cools' the aethyric energy like molten metal being poured into shape in a mold. Of course a Metal wizard would think in those terms, but it's hardly implausible.
We also get an interlude from Volans, the first ever head of the Light Order (we'll be seeing him a bit more later) where he theorizes that the Gods may well not have existed prior to the Collapse. After all, if demons and monsters first took shape and gained real power when the gate exploded, perhaps the Gods are the same, but are the manifestations of what people would see as virtues and protectors? Perhaps when Ulric beat the shit out of Khorne (but failed to seal the deal) at the beginning of all things, that was the people of the world creating a protector and a nobler form of 'war god' to face the destructive manifestation of hate? This is obviously considered a bit heretical by the various cults. Teclis seems to believe that the Aethyr is full of all of the unrealized potential of things that could be (or could not be, without magic) that can then be realized into the real world through speaking the 'words of creation'. There is an implication throughout the setting that Speak Arcane Language (Magic) is actually fragmentary knowledge of the language of the Old Ones, after all.
Anyway, it's neat to have these little interjections from a bunch of different sources and all of the sourcebooks embrace this. The Old World has many different perspectives, many of them having merit, and the reader is invited to put them together how they wish.
Now, back to Magnus. We know Magnus the Pious, but this book goes more into detail about how bad things had actually gotten post Wars of the Vampire Counts. Kul's appearance in Kislev was only part of the problem; as is usually the case at the Great Incursions, all of the cults around the Empire were activated and told to do as much damage as they could, while the Beastmen ran rampant. Blights spread across the farmlands of the Empire, cattle died in droves, people starved, and there were no human wizards to counter the curses and ill magics of the enemy. Worse, the coming of so much Chaos had greatly increased the rate of magic-sensitive children in the Empire, and despite the efforts of the Hunters to enforce the full ban, there were simply too many hidden cultists for an Empire with no knowledge of the enemy to deal with.
To illustrate how bad things had gotten, Nuln itself faced a major uprising of Chaos forces such that there were street-battles between demons and the forces of the Empire. Actual house-to-house fighting between cultists, the monsters they had summoned, and the defenders of the city risked convincing people that Nuln was lost, and some of its defenders were ensnared by the enemy and changed sides in hopes of saving themselves. This is where Magnus the Pious first made his name, rallying the defenders of the city from his place in the seminary. But saving Nuln wasn't enough. Not only did her set out to put an end to the Time of Three Emperors and get help to Kislev, he realized he needed more aid; as always, Imperial heroes are as much diplomat and politician as fiery warrior. He sent an envoy to the land of the High Elves in Ulthuan, to beg assistance in such dark times.
Unfortunately, the envoy arrived to find the elves under siege by their own kin. Malkith of Naggaroth had decided, as per usual, that the world being on the edge of destruction was the perfect time for him to get his mom to summon more demons so he could attack Ulthuan and try to become elf-king. The High Elves were barely holding on and while their king, Finubar, was able to see he needed to send aid to the humans, he could spare no army to do so. Asking his advisors for ideas, his greatest wizard, Loremaster Teclis, volunteered to take two fellow archmages and go to give the humans a key weapon they lacked: The knowledge of magic. This solution would let the armies of Ulthuan hold off the forces of the idiot king and his latest plan to probably try to eat the vortex or something while still sending needed aid to the humans, so Teclis and his two comrades set off for the lands of men.
Magnus was initially disappointed that his envoy arrived with only three elves in tow, but they explained to him that knowing how to wield magic against the Great Enemy was one of the keys to success in his war. They would bring to their side every uncorrupted Hedge Wizard and dabbler and put them through a crash-course in how not to explode, with his leave. Magnus was initially suspicious of this, from his devout faith in Sigmar, but he was smart enough to realize that the elves had successfully used magic against Chaos for centuries, and that Teclis was basically the only non-dick elf lord in the setting aside from possibly Finubar himself. He permitted their plan after careful consideration, and they got to work grabbing as many potential wizards as possible, offering amnesty to any who came out of the shadows and submitted themselves for testing. Some of those who did were Chaos Sorcerers trying to trick their way into the ranks, but even with Chaos on their side a human dabbler is not going to be able to hide their taint from one of the greatest archmages in the world; those guys got exploded. Many, many others came forward and received licensing, instruction, and a path to use their abilities officially for good.
We have an interesting little interlude here where the elf wizards examined the miraculous powers of human priests and declared they were 'obviously' simply arcane magic, channeled through ritual to such a degree that they were relatively safe. The interesting implication here is that elves legitimately don't understand divine magic. They treat it like a simple variation of Color or High magic, despite it working quite differently both in-setting (we'll get to that a lot more when we get to Tome of Salvation) and in mechanics. I've always personally suspected this is because elves have a very different relationship with their Gods, on account of their Gods being a bunch of jerks.
The Hunters hated this idea. They hated everything ABOUT this idea; their dogma had taught them for ages that it was against the will of Sigmar and the Gods for humans to work magic. Magnus had to expend much of his influence convincing the orders of Templars and Hunters to permit the study of magic. However, being as Magnus had the blessing of the Grand Theoganist and the trust of the church of Sigmar, his word held a great deal of weight. He was able to convince the various orders that the elves would not permit tainted students and that the will of Sigmar was that the Empire accept this offer by its new allies, preventing a wider attempt at purging the students coming to take advantage of the amnesty.
The elves did not have time to teach the humans much besides the basics of battle-magic before throwing them into the fray, but even 'simple' fireballs, constricting vines, and spells of curing and healing were enough to make a big difference. The humans made up in numbers and spirit what they lacked in official training, with the great Von Taurnus, a former Greatswordsman and the first Imperial Bright Wizard distinguishing himself as a battle wizard without peer. Similarly, Volans, the first head of the Light Order and one of the only humans to ever perceive the essence of High magic, would go on to be a personal friend to Teclis and one of the founding educators of the Colleges. By the end of the war, one of the elven Archmages and many young human wizards had fallen, but it was clear that magic had made the difference in a war won on a razor's edge. The outcome of the Great War Against Chaos could very well have been different had it not been for the first Magisters. Magnus thus legitimized their orders and asked Teclis to stay a little longer, to help found a great college that could train future wizards.
Thus, the Colleges of Magic begin.
Next Time: The Founding of the Colleges
I cast SUMMON WIZARD COLLEGE
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
I cast SUMMON WIZARD COLLEGE
Magnus is not only known as a great leader, but a great reformer. During the aftermath of the war, to fund reconstruction, he greatly revised and expanded citizenship in the Empire, partly to increase his tax base and partly to give more people a sense that they belonged to a larger political state. Some of his political capital was also expended on asking Teclis to remain and help to found official orders of study, that the Empire could benefit from wizards in the future. Having seen their use in the war, and having become friendly with the elven archmage, he reasoned the Empire should regulate and teach its magic-sensitive citizens on a regular basis rather than just as an emergency measure. The other surviving archmage, Finreir, wanted nothing to do with teaching the humans, reasoning that the elves and humans had fought one another before and that teaching the humans anything else would be undermining a critical elven advantage. Teclis, not being a stupid asshole, countered that the humans were positioned to take the first blows from Chaos in future wars. Not only that, but teaching them would provide a bulwark against the sort of creeping corruption that had spread when magic was blanket banned. The humans would only be exposed to more risk without training. He was able to convince his subordinate, and thus Finreir and Teclis remained to help the humans found the eight Colleges of Magic.
There were initially some minor riots when they, uh, magically rewrote the entire landscape of Altdorf to do this. I'm not entirely sure the Emperor had that in mind when he first asked them to do this, but the two wizards literally cast 'summon fanciful wizard colleges' and rewrote the flow of magic around Altdorf; the city has been a fair bit weirder ever since. It's very hard to find your way around Altdorf without landmarks anymore, and hidden throughout the city are the eight great buildings of the colleges, each dedicated to one of the colors of magic. Why is there suddenly a great and usually invisible pyramid of light for the Light Order? Who knows. That's wizard business and you know they ain't right in the head.
The Wizards, for their part, displayed remarkable forethought in realizing that while they had been officially legitimized, everyone in the Empire was currently terrified of them. They began approaching the heads of guilds and noble households and offering all manner of oaths of allegiance and mutual benefit. They started looking for ways to apply their magic to commerce and food production as well as exploding the enemies of the Empire, trying to help in the reconstruction of the formerly-shattered Empire and make friends while they did it. Magisters were made a separate class of citizen, subordinate to the Imperial Household, to try to curb their sudden and growing influence on the city and the Empire. Even with measures to limit their influence, the incessant politicking and image-building efforts of the Colleges has made it fashionable for noble houses and powerful guild to employ powerful mages as advisors and helpers in the modern Empire. The Orders continue to grow more and more accepted by Imperial society as a whole, and the power and wealth of a Wizard Lord has only grown.
Wizards understand that they are a very 'new' part of the Empire, even centuries after Magnus. The Colleges take every effort to build their reputation, and their independence, as servants and allies of the Imperial Household and the people of the Empire. The Magisters are increasingly viewed without fear, and increasingly important to all elements of Imperial society, as Life Wizards prevent famine, Celestial Wizards foresee and help with the weather, Metal Wizards aid with the schemes and plans of the Empire's Engineers, Shadow Wizards spy on its enemies, etc, etc. It would be fair to say that opening the Colleges to legitimate study opened an entire new era in the Empire, unlocking new advances in applied magic and scholarship that have greatly aided its ascent as a global superpower. Moreover, as the only major human nation with a widely teachable magical tradition (Ice/Hag Witches in Kislev are stable, but men aren't permitted to learn their ways) the Empire has become a destination for the magically sensitive from all over the world. To be a part of the Colleges can be a hard row to hoe, but it leads to potentially impressive job prospects if you can manage your student loans and avoid being eaten by a demon!
Next: The Nature of Magic
On the Winds of Magic
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
On the Winds of Magic
So, one of the things that shocked the early human wizards was being told that yes, the power they were using really was related to the stuff of Chaos. Atheyric energy all flows down from the north through the gaping wound in reality, which Teclis told them about, but didn't give them many details about (probably because he doesn't know, either; if you'll remember from the Tome of Corruption it is insanely hard to get near that thing). This means it's easier to use magic the further north you are, with the flows of magic growing weaker towards the equator. While they all flow from the same injury in reality, it is possible to shape spells and use magic without the intercession of the Chaos Gods, nor the use of Dark Magic. Humans can most easily do this by focusing on one of the eight separate winds of magic, each representing a realm of mortal imagination and dreaming and how it interacts with the physical world. This paradigm, of eight winds, has become the most successful human paradigm of magic to such an extent that it even influences the works of heretical and unlicensed wizards like necromancers in the modern Empire.
The first of the winds is the Wind of Hysh, the White Wind of Light. Hysh is the magic of illumination, both literal and figurative, representing the yearning for knowledge and enlightenment in mortal minds. Hysh's Light represents inspiration, healing, and the banishing of darkness as much as it does physical light; these wizards are able to provide bursts of foresight, banish demons in contests of wills, or shoot lasers out of their eyes. Students of Hysh are said to master the most difficult single color, and spend much of their time learning philosophy and studying the history of the world to hone their minds for the challenge of the magic of Enlightenment. The magic is also attracted to harmony and song, and so the Magisters often train their apprentices to sing as choirs to help with their rituals. These wizards are known as learned, wise masters of the arts, and fearless banishers of devils and monsters.
Azyr, the Blue Wind of the Heavens, is the magic of the skies and the magic of fate and prophecy. It reflects the power inherent in the contemplation of the stars and that which is beyond one's reach. Azyr is unbound by normal linear time and reaches into the infinite possibilities of the heavens, letting the Magisters of the Blue reach out and read possible futures for the world and themselves. They can also shoot lightning at people and fly, which is pretty rockin'. Azyr tends to lead its practitioners towards a dreamy nature, with their 'heads in the clouds', so to speak. The most difficult test a celestial wizard faces is that of living with knowing the future, and knowing that some things cannot be averted, no matter what they do. They are much sought after as councilors and advisors for their foresight, and their weather magic can spare an entire community from drought.
Chamon is the Golden Wind of Metal. It represents the desire for order and predictability in the universe, the hope that one day all things can be understood and catalogued and that all things have their place. Chamon's magic lies in alchemy and the transformation of materials into new states; a practitioner could turn a lump of steel into the finest sword one could ever hope to wield, or transform lead into gold. Indeed, one of the most famous stories of Chamon had the Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges, Balthazar Gelt, tricking a lord who was planning to rebel into letting the Gold Wizard see his treasury to inspect his finances, at which point he turned all the man's wealth into lead so he could no longer pay his mercenaries and then flew away on his Pegasus, probably laughing. Chamon is particularly attracted to certain metals, especially heavier ones like Gold, and this leads the logical, science-minded wizards to study these materials to try to discover why their magic likes them so much. Their association with the Engineer's College is also rapidly making the Gold College one of the richest Colleges in the Empire.
Ghyran, the Jade Wind, is one of the most important winds in the Empire, even if it isn't the most powerful at slaying dozens of enemies on the battlefield. This is the magic of life and conception, the power of renewal and natural spaces. Jade Wizards are tied closely to the land and seem to wax and wane with the seasons, using spells that can take a barren field (or one blighted by evil magic) and make it productive and fertile again. They can even apply those powers to humans or livestock, and Jade Wizards have saved more than one noble dynasty from ending due to infertility. They are also capable healers, and very learned in the ways of medicine and agriculture even without their spells. Very few communities would turn down the aid of a Jade Magister. Jade Magic is especially attracted the shores of the Empire's rivers, flowing down through the silt and life-giving water.
Ghur, the Amber Wind, represents the other half of the natural world. This is the magic of beasts and living creatures, the power of wolves and crows and all that walks or crawls or flies upon the earth. It represents the primal power of beasts, untainted by the horror of Chaos. Ghur has always had a little trouble really differentiating itself from Ghyran in the fluff; its blurb in the book is by far the shortest. What you want to remember about Beast Magic is that it's the much more martial form of nature magic, on paper; the RPG doesn't do well with it mechanically. It focuses on shapeshifting and strengthening living beings with echos of natural, primal power. The RPG version lacks most of the more powerful shapeshifting spells from the tabletop game, presumably because letting a PC turn into a dragon was a little outside the scope of normal PC abilities.
Aqshy is the Red Wind, the power of fire. Philosophically, it represents passion of all kinds; anything that refuses to sit still and be silent falls under Aqshy. As a Wind it is attracted to excitement, argument, and conflict, meaning many Bright Wizards are extremely quarrelsome and excitable people. This also means the actual magic is about exciting things; sometimes this is used to make them burst into flames, sometimes this is used to make tempers flare and allegiances among one's enemies crack, and sometimes it's used to turn food extremely spicy (Red Wizards are the kind of people who eat peppers like they were an apple). These are some of the Empire's most famous battle wizards, striding into war with a crown and a sword of flames, throwing blazing bolts of power every which way and that.
Ulgu, the Grey Wind, is almost the exact opposite. It represents the power of hidden knowledge, the crafting of unseen and complex plots and occult secrets. Magisters of Ulgu tend to be unimpressive people who are difficult to place and remember, and they tend to possess terrible senses of humor and a love of sticking their noses where they shouldn't to learn what they aren't supposed to know. These trickster-wizards are inexorably drawn to the mysteries and plots that fuel their magic, both forming plots of their own, and loving to uncover the plots of others. This makes them some of the Empire's best spies and messengers. They believe they act for the good of all under the thick, obscuring mists of the power of Ulgu.
Finally, we come to Shyish, the Purple Wind, and the most misunderstood. Shyish is the magic of endings and natural entropy. Later fluff for the TT game will forget that Shyish is actually the antithesis of Necromancy, not its neighbor; this is the magic of death, not undeath. These wizards are, in fact, some of the strongest foes of the Undead and often work together with the Church of Morr to oppose vampires and other undying threats. Their magic is, as above, the magic of natural endings; they can call forth the ravages of time to decay an object well before its time, or age an individual, or in the most powerful workings, simply sever a soul from its body and send it straight to Morr. Practicing the magic of Shyish tends to give Amethyst Magisters a great appreciation for life, and a stoic acceptance of their own eventual deaths.
Next: Other Forms of Magic
Dark Elves Prefer The Explosions
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Dark Elves Prefer The Explosions
There are, of course, other forms of magic besides human Color Magic. High Magic, or Qhaysh, is an extension of Color Magic that requires centuries of study to master (this being one reason no human has ever done so). It requires an understanding of the links and harmonies of all eight winds, in order to form spells from multiple winds without overchanneling aethyric energy and causing Chaos. It relies on a balance between the various ambient magics channeled into it, and it tends to be extremely precise and focused in its effects. Given how long it takes to learn and how elf PCs start at the same level as human PCs, they elected to simply avoid giving direct rules for High Magic in the RPG; any elf PC who has spellcasting careers is roughly on par with a human since they're still learning their basic Color Magic in preparation to go become a High Mage.
We've talked about Dhar, or Dark Magic, back in vampire town. Dark Magic is formed when someone stops caring about focusing on or balancing ambient magic and just grabs as many fistfuls of raw aethyric energy as they can out of the environment, compacting and twisting the magic to fit the purpose of the spell they're using right now. This produces the magical equivalent of nuclear waste from a spent fuel rod. The seeping, compacted leftovers of the spell can infect the area where it was used, seeping into plants and animals and rocks and trees and causing mutation and blight. This compacted magic can eventually be shaped together into what's known as 'True' Dhar, where instead of pulling the winds in disharmony someone gathers up the stagnant leftovers of past dark magic and uses it for ill. Dark Elves prefer this sort of magic to High Magic specifically because it is more likely to kill its wielder, according to a sidenote: The stupid fascist pricks think this ensures the 'stronger' wizards survive and that it properly 'winnows' the weak. This is the magic of raw, unsubtle power, compared to the scalpel of High Magic or the focus and safety of Color Magic. It is mostly useful for Chaos or Necromantic spells. Wrestling this magic into shape almost requires a megalomaniac mind; otherwise it will rebel and snap back into whatever chaotic form it prefers, usually to the detriment of the wielder.
Magic is also absorbed into all things as it passes south from the yawning gap in reality at the north pole. This 'earthbound' magic manifests in the increasing mutation rate the further north you get; while all living tissue can absorb a certain amount of the humming background magic of the world, too much will eventually cause the raw energies of change to make alterations. However, magic is being pulled out of the system at the same time as it's being pumped in, by the force of the Great Vortex in Ulthuan. This means the background magic is much lower further south, as less of the energy reaches it in the first place before the purging cycle starts. It also explains the difficulty of crafting magical items; they have to 'hold' the magic in, despite the force of the Vortex trying to pump it out. One of the most successful means of doing so is dwarven Runic magic, which can attract and stabilize the energy in specific, standardized forms and store it long-term. Ironically, for people who can't sense magic at all, the dwarves are some of the best artisans of magical tools.
These flows of magic are shaped by natural leylines, as well; a sorcerer who knows how and where magic flows in the world can tap into these leylines for tremendous power, as we saw with the Kislevite Ice Witches and their magic linked to the icy power of Kislev. There is also a huge network of ancient power transmission devices known as Waystones, originally built as a sort of global travel and terraforming network by the Old Ones. The Elves set out to complete this network and rebuild it after they had survived the Collapse, and back when they were allies of the Dwarves, they taught their friends how to do the same. The dwarves helped construct runic pillars that served similar functions, and the whole world is crisscrossed with a no-longer-maintained but tremendously powerful network of these Elven, Dwarven, and Old One Waystones, plus lesser ones that primitive humans used to be drawn to construct at the nexuses of leylines, back before they could explain why they did so. As we saw in Tome of Corruption, these Waystones and ancient networks are very, very powerful; Chaos loves to try to hijack and corrupt them, and the wizards of the Empire are sworn to defend them by ancient pact with their teacher, Teclis. Magic is simply easier and safer to work neat one of these network nodes. More importantly, the later ones also serve to amplify the flow of corrupt power back towards the Vortex and out of the world; if Chaos could destroy or re purpose enough of them, it could be a tremendous disaster.
There's also the matter of Warpstone, which is literally congealed and crystallized Chaos energy. Warpstone is such a powerful crystallization of all eight colors that even non-sensitive mortals can feel and see it. Touching it can instantly saturate a being with magical energy, causing mania, insanity, mutation, sickness, or even physical burns. For some reason, people are convinced this stuff is immensely powerful (It is, mind, if used in actual magic, but it makes it much more dangerous) and it has a reputation of being able to do all manner of wondrous things, despite being incredibly illegal and proscribed by the Orders save for very specific and controlled studies. It is thus extremely valuable to would-be warlocks and dabblers, many of whom are rich enough to pay Adventurers a huge sum of money to retrieve them a chunk of Warpstone. Warpstone's main interest for actual magicians is its ability to store vast amounts of energy; human wizards can use it to make up for their lack of expertise with runecraft to greatly aid in constructing magical items.
Warpstone is, obviously, an unwelcome substance and not preferable for respectable wizards. To that end, the Gold Order discovered how to condense raw Chamon out into a stone of power, originally called Philosopher's Stones before the name acquired an insane, mythic reputation for being able to produce immortality and endless gold. To this day, non-magical 'alchemists' keep pointlessly trying to make Philosophers' Stones, passing off their failures to unsuspecting rubes for vast sums, while the wizards have changed the name to 'Goldstones' to avoid being associated with such chicanery. All of the Orders have learned to make these sorts of power stones, though it takes months of ritual; the results enable the Orders to craft some of the powerful items of magic that the Empire relies on to give its heroes an edge in its many wars.
Next Time: On the Study and Use of Imperial Magic.
By God this is a lot of fluff!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
By God this is a lot of fluff!
Would you believe I'm not even halfway done with the fluff in this book? Both Realms of Sorcery and Tome of Salvation are very dense with material, with dozens of pages of background and fluff before they get to the rules.
In theory, every human is capable of some small degree of magical aptitude. In practice, that level is usually so small that no amount of training within a human lifetime could even unlock the ability to see the Winds of Magic, let alone manipulate them. It is posited that about one in every thousand humans possesses the natural degree of talent necessary to be an Imperial Magister, with others having lesser talents that can still manifest in unusual luck or twists of fortune (you could use this to explain Fate Points, if you wished). Very few humans can inherently sense the Winds of Magic, and so very few ever try to reach out to them. Three major aptitudes will be present in admixture in any truly promising future wizard, often referred to as the sixth, seventh, and eighth senses: Aethyric Attunement, Witchsight, and Channeling.
An Aethyrically Attuned person (someone with the Talent for it) will feel the variations in background magic wherever they go. They are prone to flashes of insight and strange, sudden feelings; if an attuned person entered a region heavy in the power of Aqshy, they would feel excited and be unable to explain why. They might start to sweat despite it being a cold day, or show other signs of being exposed to unnatural heat. These characters very literally feel the Winds at all times, and this ability cannot be turned off; this can lead to a person being labeled mad, especially if this ability manifests from a very young age in a community with little experience with magic. Naturally, a trained wizard will feel their own chosen wind the strongest, and will be influenced by it more heavily than the others. All attuned individuals can feel a creeping sense of dread if they enter a place tainted with Dark Magic.
Witchsight is so named because it is tradition; the Magisters of the Empire have been unsuccessful in getting people to call it something less pejorative like 'Soul Seeing' or 'Spiritsense' or other more impressive (and less accusatory) names. Like attunement, Witchsight is an additional sense that cannot be turned off, though a character not actively using their Magical Sense skill might be paying less attention to it and trying to 'tune it out' to focus on the physical world. Wizards always see the work of the Winds on the world, manifesting in colored auras, strange hallucinations, and visions of the beings that exist beyond reality, lurking just past the veil; these strange visions are another reason young magically sensitive people can be declared mad before the Colleges find them. Some of them actually DO go mad, seeing things that they know are 'real' but that no-one else can see. Witchsight is very useful for an adventurer, though they suggest a terrible optional rule where you punish players for making checks with it too regularly by giving them Insanity points if they miss a test by 20 or more (don't use this rule; in fact, don't use the optional Insanity system at all). Witchsight is also very distracting and can be the cause of the a Magister's reputation for eccentricity; they try to ignore it in normal social situations, but a particularly vivid vision can distract even the most disciplined wizard.
Channeling, the Eighth sense, is absolutely necessary to actually work magic rather than just observe it. Channeling reflects the ability to draw in and give shape to the power of the Aethyr, and it is quite possible for someone to be born with an inborn ability to Channel but no attunement or Witchsight. These unfortunates tend to have tremendous swings of luck and strange phenomena that happen all around them, and lacking the senses to understand what they are doing, are at risk of possession or being accused of dark witchcraft unless they are found and given proper training. It is actually very rare for a human to possess all three without any training, and marks someone of significant potential and skill. Without training, Channeling can lead to ruin as a hedge-wizard doesn't know how to avoid creating magical 'run-off' in the form of Dhar, and may not know how to distinguish 'spirits' and forces of the Winds from demons playing for their soul.
Some people are actually capable of shaping magic without formulae or spells. These people tend to have towering egos and tend to be insane, like necromancers and Chaos Sorcerers, and even then those can benefit from ritual. Magic's fuel is still the raw energy of change and aethyr, and magisters theorize that the binding 'order' of a spell serves as a medium that will attract the power and give it shape. You'll remember the gold wizard theory that magic is attracted to thought and then 'cools' and solidifies its expression in the natural world by contact with properly ordered thought? That isn't far off from the theory of spellcraft. As I said, it is possible to simply beat magic into shape by raw will. This is difficult and very likely to explode. Magic expresses itself in the spells and rituals of the colleges because these are known, well-trod, relatively safe paths for the expression of aethyric energy into reality. When a Bright Wizard invokes the ancient language and gestures that produce a fireball, they can be reasonably certain it will, in fact, produce a ball of fire if done properly, and will do so in balance with the available wind of Aqshy in the area.
This also gets to linguistics in magic. The Speak Arcane Language (Magic) skill is necessary for an Imperial Wizard, and is itself a simpler version of the Elven arcane language passed down by Teclis. The human Magisters had simpler spells, as they were learning in an emergency situation, and so were given a much simpler lexicon to work with. As we see from Teclis' own theories in the book, he believed that the arcane languages are derived from the language of the Old Ones (elves also believe Eltharin is a devolved form of the Old Ones' own tongue). This language was the language of all creation, and thus perfect for inscribing precise magical formulae that will properly shape the energy of the aethyr on contact. Humans actually believe that the Old One language may form a sort of genuine mother-tongue of all languages for the Old World, explaining many of the similarities in languages like Breton and Reikspiel, and the relative ease of learning languages in Warhammer. Another interesting point is that the Language of Magic is also linguistically related to Dark Tongue as well as Eltharin. It is impossible to avoid using the Language of Chaos when shaping the Aethyr, even if the incantations are much more precise and scrubbed of direct reference to the Dark Gods, and this is generally kept from the Witch Hunters. The Light College holds that if the language of the Old Ones could be fully uncovered, that the Old Ones had catalogued every being and phenomena in existence, and thus their full lexicon could open up incredible new heights of magical and scientific development. They also believe that somehow the language of the Old Ones has a life of its own, and continues to add to itself, cataloguing every new thing and idea dreamed of by mortals. Discovering it would be a holy grail to these scholar-wizards.
It is interesting to me how much the Old Ones come up, obliquely, in this book. Wizards are interested in the nature of the world and their own powers, after all, and they cannot help but be curious about the supposedly Godlike beings who could use magic to reshape entire planets without the taint of Chaos. In many ways, the Old Ones would be the ideal state of the Wizard's art, wouldn't they?
Next: Magic in Imperial Society
That's a burnin'
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
That's a burnin'
Licensed magic is new in Imperial society, and as we've gone over, it can be easy to mistaken a budding magic user for a madman. Given the relative rarity of magical talent among humans, many Imperial communities have never seen a genuine wizard. Add to this that the cults still don't especially like wizards, that unlicensed magic is fairly likely to lead to Chaos or Necromancy, and that the Colleges have a vested interest in being the sole source of magical legitimacy in the Empire, and things can get hairy for a wizard out in the sticks. Folktales of evil wizards and sinister witches abound in the Empire, and most Imperial citizens still believe that mages are inherently touched by Chaos. This same reputation of power and darkness also means the locals aren't likely to grab a collegiate in their robes and signs of their profession and try to nail them to a tree or burn them, though; the average Imperial citizen doesn't know enough to distinguish a struggling Journeyman or Apprentice from a Master Wizard and they would likely not want to risk their wrath.
Strangely, the very rural areas of the Empire are actually safer for a mage than the small towns, even for an unlicensed one. Superstition, folk religion, and a thousand and one different little 'rites to Rhya' or simple tricks to 'keep the Beasts away' exist in the countryside, and many of them have actual hedge wizard power behind them. Most of the rural folk of the Empire would still run in terror if they saw a Celestial Wizard call down lightning and fling it at someone, but the idea that you ask a wise man to auger the skies and see if the rains will be coming on time (and maybe to perform a little rite if they aren't, to make them do so) is so ingrained in the Imperial peasantry that they'd be fine with these more subtle manifestations of magery. Many small communities also have contact with minor spirits like dryads, who aren't necessarily linked to Chaos despite being things of magic. The blurry line between superstition, magic, religion and hedgecraft in the Empire's rural communities makes it easier for mages to operate there, even though 'witchcraft' is still feared.
It's the small towns that are the worst. They tend to have comfortable priests who have very little oversight, and who can say what they wish to their congregations as major community leaders; there's always the chance some radical anti-magic firebrand was banished to a small out of the way burg and is just itching for a chance to conduct a burning. They also have much less contact with folk-magic and tend to stick tightly to the dogmas that any form of sorcery is witchcraft and unable to be separated from the powers of Chaos. It is dangerous for a young magic user to grow up in these insular and suspicious communities, and it can be dangerous for an experienced one passing through. Your license might not protect you if the locals get up the courage to overcome their fear and decide that they don't care what Emperor Magnus said 250 years ago, Sigmar despises all weavers of the black arts; and at that point, a wizard has to choose how they're going to trick their way out of this mess because slaughtering a bunch of Imperial citizens with their magic won't sit well with their orders or the Hunters.
The cities tend to be the safest place for wizards. For one, they have the largest population and thus the largest population of magically sensitive people. They also tend to contain guilds for masters and journeymen, or in the case of Altdorf they hold the Colleges themselves. People in a city are much more likely to recognize the official garb of the Orders and many of the large merchant houses have lucrative deals with the wizards for aid in their business. Nobles tend to be able to read and tend to be a little more in the know about larger Imperial politics, and thus tend to realize they shouldn't randomly piss off wizards. The cities are where you are most likely to find people who make a distinction between witchcraft and magic, who may admit that a wizard can be far more help than harm, and who might not run away screaming if they see overt spellcraft. Altdorfers, especially, make it a point to act blase and unimpressed by magic as a point of civic pride. Altdorf is the only place in the Empire where you can draw a flaming sword from mid-air and have a crowd stumble over themselves to act unimpressed, criticizing its size, its heat, its shape, its color in their rush to cover up that they're scared out of their minds but know there's no escaping goddamn wizards as long as the Colleges exist.
Magical sensitivity has been on the rise in the Empire, especially since the Storm of Chaos. The most recent classes of apprentices in Altdorf are more numerous than ever before, with some worrying that this represents a growing tide of magic in the world, which could bode poorly. While more wizards can be helpful, if the Vortex is weakening or the flow of Chaos is increasing in the north it can only mean bad things. It is difficult for wizards to undo millennia of paranoia and tradition, as well; they have only been a legitimized and licensed force in the Empire for about two and a half centuries, compared to the millennia of 'burn on sight' policies. Most people also try to avoid getting involved with magic because they fear that mention of it might draw the eyes of hard-looking men and women in big, wide-brimmed hats and long coats who ask a lot of questions about why such things are your concern. Regardless, there are still those who dabble in magic without license.
The most common sort of unlicensed dabbler is the Hedge Wizard. These people have been able to sense and manipulate magic on their own, and often take advantage of the tolerance for their craft mentioned in the rural areas of the Empire. A local 'wise woman' who has figured out a simple fertility charm to help infertile couples conceive, or an 'apothecary' whose potions sometimes cure sickness better than natural medicine ever could? Communities will often tolerate such things. Many of these dabblers experiment with ways to draw power from where it seeps into the surrounding environment, figuring out how to squeeze energy out of rock and glen to power their experiments. Left unattended, these people can be dangerous, but their spells leave tracks and their ability to work them self-taught indicates real potential: Imperial Magisters often wander about specifically to investigate and apprentice these amateur sorcerers. After all, these people are unquestionably talented, and a good student reflects well on their master. Even more, they may have insights you didn't, and if you make one your graduate student, you can take their ideas for yourself! The academic potential is thrilling!
Witches are not inherently Chaos witches, nor is it a gendered term in the Empire. Witches are specifically Hedge Wizards who have practiced for a significant amount of time and discovered more than simple petty magic. They work actual Lore magic, or a facsimile of it. If you'll recall from Tome of Corruption, the Vikti magic users among the Norse use a very similar talent and style as Witches in the Empire, whereby they can put together (at significant EXP cost) a sort of patchwork of minor spells from several Lores that they can work at slightly higher risk of miscast. Witches that don't use Dark Magic are often prized students; they've gotten as far as they can go without a teacher, whether it be Chaos or the Colleges, and the Colleges would really prefer it be the latter. For the Witch, working magic is a dangerous, fine line to walk where the practitioner has to be very careful to sift the spirits from the demons and the winds from the darkness, and has to do it all on their own lest they fall to a worse sort of magic.
That magic being the magic of Warlocks. We'll also get a career for Warlocks, and they're amusingly not that great of wizards, despite their arrogance. These are people who refuse to submit to the magical traditions of the Colleges and who believe that Dark Magic is forbidden solely because it is powerful, rather than because working with it is insanely dangerous. They tend to be towering egomaniacs who uniformly believe they are magical geniuses, eager to mess about with demons, toy with necromancy, and generally do stupid shit that will get a lot of people killed. It's common to find Warlocks claiming that Teclis 'crippled' human magic by 'only' teaching the Color Spells and that the elves kept the secrets of Dhar for themselves. It is very common for Warlocks to start out 'independent', believing they need only their wills and egos to work their 'brilliant' magics, before falling into worship of this or that demon prince or evil spectre because it flattered them at the right moment. These people know exactly enough to be genuinely dangerous and will often be the source of magical adventures.
Dedicated Necromancers represent some of the most dangerous human practitioners of Dark Magic. As you'll recall from the vampire book, Necromancy is uniquely human. Elves barely acknowledge it exists, and it seems only humans are 'close enough' to death to really grasp these sorts of dark arts regularly. Necromancers are generally obsessed with extending their own lives, and often end up serving the Vampires, making them enemies of the state and enemies of the Cult of Morr. The Amethyst College is also devoted to wiping out the practice of Necromancy. This sort of Dark Magic is less likely to cause flashy mutations and instead causes a cadaverous, unhealthy appearance and pallor, even as it cracks the user's mind and soul. Necromancers usually remain exactly sane enough to be truly dangerous threats, and a skilled Necromancer can equal a Master Wizard or even a Wizard Lord in raw power, as they have extensive traditions to draw upon and masters to learn from.
Of course, there are two kinds of sanctioned magic in the Empire. The collegiate Magisters, and Priests. Priests tend to deny they use magic, accrediting their powers to their Gods alone, and the forms of miraculous magic granted to Annointed Priests and Warrior Priests do tend to be much more stable (if less powerful) than the magic of Magisters. Priestly miracles are blessed, and the common folk hold magic-using Priests in very high regard. Magisters are still usually held in some degree of suspicion, tolerated but not exactly trusted. Foreign wizards are technically not permitted to practice magic, but in the interests of diplomacy, Kislevite Ice Witches and Bretonnian Damsels are grandfathered in as 'priestly' magic traditions (despite that not being the case in either case) because the Hunters trying to seize either of those would instantly create a serious international incident with an allied nation.
Next: Where do wizards come from?
Wizard College 101
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Wizard College 101
Something that can't be emphasized enough is that the existence of the Colleges has yet to widely penetrate Imperial Society. The Empire doesn't have a robust, modern communication network nor a standardized system of mail, so there are no magic owls dropping off post saying 'Wait no, don't set Weird Heinrich on fire, he's invited to a fanciful wizard college'. This is one of the reasons Magisters are required to adventure: To go expose the wider Empire to the idea that there are a bunch of fancy men and women in magnificent hats who work spells for the good of the Empire, and to pick up Weird Heinrich and get him to college since outside of the cities almost no-one knows one could even aspire to go to Wizard College. This is unfortunate, because one of the Empire's best sources for wizards is the various spontaneously manifesting talents out in the countryside and small towns where the majority of the population resides.
This situation is further exacerbated by the fact that while magic is easily passed on to one's children, two entire orders have a strict vow of celibacy and moreover their Winds tend to remove any and all desire to break that vow (Death and Light wizards generally don't feel any urge to wed or have children). Bright Wizards are as quick to love as they are to throw fireballs as they fight and argue their way across the Empire, but they tend to be dangerously irresponsible parents and end up leaving their children to less on-fire relatives. Gold and Celestial wizards tend to get so caught up in nerding out that they forget to ever marry or have kids. Grey and Amber wizards are often marked by a misanthropic streak that can make intimacy difficult. Only Jade wizards are known for consistently having healthy family and love lives and being responsible parents. Given how often magical ability is passed down directly to one's children, one would think this may eventually lead to their being more Jade wizards than any other kind in the future.
The book has a very small bit where it mentions that students do not often get to leave their colleges to go drinking and gambling out on the town in Altdorf, and this is very disappointing to me. However, the wizards still tend to get up to plenty of mischief within their Colleges, and once they achieve a Journeyman status (or get sent out as a more capable, PC-level Apprentice) they still get unleashed upon the world to get in trouble, so it balances out well enough. The most important social function of the Colleges is providing a young wizard with a place where no-one is afraid of them for simply being a wizard. They are a safe space for people who have often faced suspicion and fear their whole lives, where they can talk freely to others who can see the strange aethyr as they can, where people can assure them they are not mad and that their power can be as much a gift as a curse.
Not every apprentice trains in the College buildings themselves, though the majority do. Some will be taken on as apprentice by a traveling Magister or one attached to an army, maintaining regular contact with the Orders in order to report on the status of their pupils. This is usually left to particularly trusted or eccentric Magisters, or those who are studying something too complicated to take their work to Altdorf but who can't escape from the eternal bane of Academia, being expected to teach.
Magnus not only established the Colleges, but he left them primarily to study and develop curriculum for his entire fifty year reign. He saw the Colleges as an investment in the future; now that the original emergency was passed, there was no need to hastily cobble together squads of half-trained battle wizards, and the Colleges were left free to try to understand their new arts and look for how they could aid the Empire in the future. The first students were also quite loyal to Loremaster Teclis, especially as he remained for several decades to continue to train human students before he was pulled home and made master of the Tower of Hoeth (High Elf Wizard College). Magnus tried to make the Colleges an Imperial institution, rather than a provincial or personal one, in hopes that they could not be easily wielded by individual Elector Counts once they got over their initial terror about sanctioned wizards. Leaving the first wizards to their Colleges to develop things helped initially isolate them from petty Imperial politics and kept them loyal to the central state that was their patron.
As years passed, the Empire passed direct laws about how and when wizards could be requested from the Colleges. So long as they were not used for civil war, it was eventually left to the Magisters to make their own individual treaties with nobles and merchant houses of the Empire, and as in all things in Imperial politics this quickly descended into a byzantine criss-cross of competing obligations and attempts to increase the influence of the Colleges, because if there's one thing Imperials love it's politics. The wizards seek influence and exposure, to protect themselves against the future in case a less understanding Emperor comes to the throne. Their position as the only legitimate authority on magical arcane knowledge in the Empire and their ceaseless pursuit of a better image (and more money) for their institutions is slowly overcoming the fear the people of the Empire have of magic, and more and more people are grudgingly admitting that one of the blokes in pointy hats can do more good than harm.
The Colleges are also fortunate that Karl Franz, current Emperor, is a patron of theirs. He stood behind them on a very risky political dispute, when they requested that the Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges be given an Imperial Elector's vote. It was defeated on the worry that it would grant too much power to the princes of Reikland, since Altdorf was traditionally the domain of the Prince of Reikland, and this would be another vote within Reikland's influence, but the Colleges have not forgotten that Franz stuck his neck out for them (and for his own advantage and that of his children, mind, being Reikland electors).
Magnus' decision to let the wizards study instead of demanding they churn out Battle Wizards at all costs has also born fruit: The Magisters have become a wide storehouse of useful knowledge on affairs besides war and the banishing of Chaos Demons. In turn, knowing spells and means to clear blights and grow crops or manufacture rare components or read the weather have helped the Colleges in their constant quest for influence and legitimacy, and have done tremendous things for the Empire. Some of the cults are starting to worry about the political influence and wealth of the wizards, rather than just the spiritual legitimacy of their arts; they fear that if the wizards continue to grow in power, one day the wizards will be in a position to remember and repay their long opposition.
Another major victory for the Colleges is a new writ of law that mandates the Witch Hunters to turn over any non-obviously-tainted magic user they find who is under 24 years of age. You may not get a magical owl telling you to go to college, but there's always the chance your PC was terrified by a grim looking man or woman in a big hat who looked them over carefully and then told their parents that this one was for the Colleges, not the Pyre, and made it clear you didn't have much choice but to leave the farm and learn to read. This also follows with the general increasing professionalization of the Hunters that we saw in Tome of Corruption. Hunters are also still the main legitimate law enforcement agency of the Empire for tracking down wizard crimes, but are forbidden from targeting Imperial Magisters unless they already have solid evidence of corruption or a request from the Colleges. The Colleges do everything they can to handle such things themselves and keep the Hunters out of their affairs.
Next: What it is to be a Magister: The Quest for Tenure
Non-insane magic users of skill are highly unusual
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Non-insane magic users of skill are highly unusual
Magister started out as a title to ensure that wizards didn't take all the jobs and money. By declaring them Magisters and subordinate to the authority of the Lords and Patriarchs (who might be women, mind) of their Colleges, Magisters are not permitted to own wide swaths of property, nor manage businesses. They are limited to contract employment. However, as it has become increasingly profitable to contract with a wizard, Magisters' 'contracting fees' have risen, as has the rate at which their Colleges remind them that they have student loans to pay off. You see, the Colleges are 'free' insofar as a wizard goes and learns there because it is illegal for them not to do so. However, afterwards, they owe a portion of their contracting fees to their College and a general tithe of 1 in 10 gold crowns earned (This is mechanically enforced for Wizard PCs). So a Magister is a fully licensed practitioner available for contract work who yet owes significant loyalty and funds to their Order. The title was originally created as a limiter, but it has evolved into an honorific.
Most Magisters do not live at the Colleges, save the ones who have been nailed down into teaching full time or those whose research can be confined to the libraries and laboratories of their College. Most are, in fact, required to adventure and travel and find new students to bring in and contracts and quests to perform to fund their College (and their personal affairs) and bring glory and respectability to their art. Most are about as annoyed with having to do this as they would be with having to attend office hours. I don't think I need to point out that having wizards work on a quest/contract basis and having it be a mandate from their superiors that they go on adventures and show people that wizards are awesome is good for an RPG: It both easily explains wizard PCs and also supplies a steady stream of hapless Magisters who would really rather be reading or doing research trying to fob off their job on hired mercenaries (PCs).
Battle Wizards are a little silly, and exist to patch a minor fluff hole between the TT Wargame and the RPG. You see, in the TT Game, a Wizard's attack spells will regularly wipe out whole platoons of soldiers and their buffs and things can affect entire regiments. There are also some insanely powerful TT spells like turning into a dragon or calling down a meteor strike that just don't translate into the RPG. The section on Battle Wizards talks about how those TT Wizards are a special breed apart, trained wholly for war and possessed of immense power, with a level of killing and magical power that a normal PC will never achieve. The intent being to explain why a TT Bright Wizard's Fireball kills like 3-18 soldiers while a PC one does 3 Damage 4 Hits. This is annoying, though, because it A: Doesn't account for Vampires and Chaos Sorcerers and all and B: It feels wrong to present a major concept like this with no mechanical backing and a note saying there will never be mechanical backing for it. I'd prefer to just say that a TT combat turn is way longer than an RPG one and that the TT versions of spells are just bigger, more elaborate rituals performed on the field, while RPG spells are quick self-defense work.
Black Magisters are not necessarily Chaos Sorcerers, or weavers of the black arts, or Necromancers. They usually do one of those things, but the term technically refers to any wizard who has broken their vows to their Order and gone rogue. As enemies, Black Magisters tend to be much more dangerous than simple witches and self-taught warlocks; they have collegiate training and get to use the normal Wizard careers, they just usually know a Dark Lore or use the Dark Magic talent with a Color lore. The most common reason they go rogue is for trying to work with more than one Lore, which inevitably leads them into working with Dark Magic. Many of these will tell you Teclis taught the humans 'intentionally' limited magic so the elves could keep all the good spells for themselves, and that being a magical genius, they will surely unlock all the secrets of power hidden from humanity. Moments later, they usually explode, get sworded by an Adventurer, or get eaten by and unleash a tide of demons.
While Hunters are ready and able to take down rogue mages like that and burn them at the stake (to more thoroughly cleanse away any remaining Chaos taint), the Colleges would really, really prefer to keep the precedent for wizards getting burned down as much as possible. Accusing Magisters of crimes is very difficult; they have a license, and what constitutes crime as opposed to normal magic use isn't well known outside of the Hunters, and the Magisters like it this way. They prefer to handle their own justice and enforcement. A wizard caught defrauding, defaming, or breaking their Order's rules will find themselves subjected to a bevy of fines, flogging, public humiliation or stripping of titles before their peers, execution, or in the worst cases, Pacification.
Pacification is a terrible, terrible punishment. It is considered significantly worse than mere execution among wizards, and it takes doing considerable harm to your Order or the Empire to be subjected to it. No-one is quite sure what the rite involves, or what happens to those subjected to it; it has only been performed 6 times in the entire 250 year history of the Colleges. What is known is that it involves a sort of gelding of the soul, where the portion that can link to the Aethyr is cut away by magical rite. The first man this was performed on, an errant pyromancer named Lord Reichthard, is said to have screamed for sixteen days straight before it was done. It is not entirely certain what the benefits of doing this to someone are, compared to just shooting them in the head and burning the body, and the wizards who know the spells involved don't like to explain.
The Orders take hunting down fallen Magisters very seriously, and do their best to keep it quiet. They absolutely do not want cases of Chaos Magisters or hidden Necromancers coming to the Hunters unless it is absolutely necessary. They will, of course, sometimes hire ragamuffins who happen to accompany one of their younger students as deniable assets (PC parties) to track down and dispatch evil wizards, while quietly trying to hide any evidence the person was ever a Collegiate Magister to begin with.
Another important bit of Wizard Law is that a wizard is considered responsible for their students. Should a Journeyman or Apprentice fall, their master will be scrutinized to see if they could have prevented it, or more likely, if they were somehow complicit. One of the surest signs of a hidden Chaos wizard is a string of 'unlucky' apprentices winding up tainted, after all. Sometimes a wizard will be given the task of tracking down and defeating their old student, to satisfy the Colleges about their loyalty and also because they know their student best. Occasionally, a wizard who has had a run of bad apprentices will be exiled from Altdorf and the Reikland, or even from the Empire, remaining a member of their Order but no longer permitted to be in politically sensitive places. Where an Exiled Magister is ordered to operate tells you how much their Order is upset with them: One sent to Estalia, Marienburg, or Tilea likely did something minor. One sent to Bretonnia probably really pissed someone off, considering how Bretonnians feel about non-Damsel wizards.
Next: Wizards and Priests: A Mutual Distrust
Not Exactly Atheists
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Not Exactly Atheists
Wizards still give the expected due to the Gods, like all intelligent people in the Old World's polytheistic culture. The friction comes in that wizards suspect they know what the Gods are. They believe the Gods are real, certainly, and definitely have a sort of independent existence from their creators, true, but that the Gods are an aethyric reflection of the hopes and dreams of sentient creatures, rather than mighty sacred beings that always existed. Some wizards might point to the stories of the Collapse and, if they know of the stories of Aenerion passed down through their association with Teclis, might claim that Asuryan may've been a myth until the outpouring of aethyric energy at the Collapse. So wizards don't deny the Gods, nor do they even deny their divinity, but some question its source. Also, suggesting the Gods may come from the same mechanisms as Chaos Demons (albeit in a much better and much more individually powerful direction) isn't likely to go over well with religious orders that already don't like wizards.
Some of the cults have tried to find common cause, though, since the wizards don't seem to be going anywhere and at the end of the day it's not in anyone's interests for the two groups to remain at one another's throats at all hours (only some hours). Some of the cults are even quite close to some of the orders; Jade and Amber wizards are very tight with the cults of Taal and Rhya, recognizing common cause in one another. The Amethyst Order works very closely with the cult of Morr on the topic of making sure the dead stay dead and that souls pass gently to Morr's realm. Some Orders have difficulties; the Bright Order seems bent on pissing off as many Gods as possible, including calling Manaan a 'damp, dull squib of a God', so they should probably stay off of boats. Many wizards will offer respect to Verena, some battle wizards will cite Myrmidia, but for the most part and individual wizard will not claim devotion to any individual god.
I've also mentioned that the Empire grandfathers in Ice Witches and Damsels by claiming they aren't subject to the Imperial Articles of Magic since they are 'divine' wizards. This is absolutely incorrect; Ice Witches use leyline magic and Damsels of the Lady are pointedly not granted anything but arcane spells (curiously, spells entirely from Lores the Wood Elves of the Athel Loren favor...), which should really cause some questions about the nature of the Lady of the Lake, but it's good enough to prevent diplomatic incidents. The Colleges being one of the only legitimate magical learning institutions in the human nations has also had the effect of making the Colleges extremely nationally diverse; nobles and wealthy scholars in Araby will regularly send gifted children to the Empire, as will people in Tilea, Estalia, and even Bretonnians who managed to hide them from the fae. If you want to be an Arabic mathematician who is also an Imperial wizard student, that is a 100% in-setting reasonable background.
Now, we finally get down to what it's like to go to wizard school. Apprentices are generally from the age of 10 to their mid twenties, and Magisters prefer to apprentice people as young as possible. The younger the student, the less time they'll have had to make some kind of dire mistake with their powers before they're introduced to proper training, and the easier of a time they'll have picking out their proper Wind of Magic. Being an apprentice involves a lot of drudgery; they are expected to do plenty of the College's menial labor under the guise of important moral lessons about not using magic for everything. Apprentices are the oil that makes the machinery of the colleges work, by literally doing the extremely boring gruntwork of preparing the oils and ingredients their masters need for their experiments, lifting heavy things and putting them back down, cooking and cleaning, and otherwise making themselves useful. In between all this manual labor, they are also expected to learn to read, drilled in arcane and foreign languages, and put through dozens of mental drills that will help hone their wizarding senses and shape their powers. This is another reason they prefer to apprentice their students young; a young student is less likely to realize how much of their apprenticing work isn't actually part of developing their powers, but rather grunt-work passed down by a master who 'fondly' remembers doing the same grunt work as an apprentice and now wants to never bother cleaning the chambers again.
Also note the Colleges demand either a huge financial gift for the Apprentice's signing up, or else place a burden of 10% tax on the Apprentice for their student loans for the rest of their life. This is mechanically enforced by all of the Wizard careers in the book. Add to this that if you're playing by the normal trappings rules a wizard character needs to earn a lot of money to buy the many hand-written grimoires they need to study and advance in tier, and you will find that dealing with their crushing student loan debt and trying to make a quick buck (or steal some magic tomes) occupies the mind of many wizard graduate students.
Also note that you don't have a choice about signing up to be a wizard if you're discovered. The wizard colleges aren't terribly brutal, but an untrained wizard is a significant potential threat to themselves and others. It really is for a student's own good to attend. Moreover, if you'll recall, the Colleges are very image conscious; every evil wizard or exploding witch that slips through their fingers and doesn't sign up is another black mark on the reputation of magic. Not only that, but if a user goes untrained and blows up, that's one more student the Colleges can't extract endless loan payments from. Really, it's lose lose situation for everyone involved.
I mentioned that a student will be drawn to their Wind. Whether you came to the Colleges to reveal yourself as magically talented, or were discovered by a wandering Hunter or Magister, a student will determine which Lore calls to them in solemn ceremony. Since the Lores are so closely associated with many of the passions and hopes of humankind, this is a matter of the student's personality and desires, and one of the times that the Magisters would not think of bullying or bossing an Apprentice into something. The matter of which Wind calls to a person's soul is a very personal, and almost sacred thing. It is also another reason to apprentice early; someone who has already been working with the Winds on their own without guidance is very likely to have accidentally used more than one at some point, which can make it harder to pick out their destiny with the proper clarity, since the Winds they have tasted and worked with may have already shaped them slightly. A ten year old girl finally coming to understand why she has always felt comfortable with order and numbers is a much clearer Gold Wizard than a twenty five year old Witch who has worked with potions and materials and possibly been shaped by both the Jade and Gold in her life to date.
We also get an overview of the roles and titles of the various tiers of Wizbiz:
Note that an actual Apprentice (and thus a starting PC) does not yet have an Order. They are still learning the very basics of magic (and how little they can get away with mopping the floor before the master notices) and thus have yet to discover which Wind has called them. They are sometimes made PCs and sent out on quests and things that their master doesn't want to bother with, ostensibly to teach them lessons. Apprentices are often known as drudges, hopefuls, or 'you there!'
A Journeyman is a wizard who has actually been initiated into their Order and learned their Lore. They can't easily use the upper (or even mid) levels of that Lore, and they are still very much students, but they are more likely to be sent out on quests and contracts that their masters don't want to bother with because they are essentially wizard graduate students, and anyone in Academia knows you can always throw more graduate students at any task you don't want to deal with. They are often known as seekers or 'Lad/lass'.
A Master Wizard is an actual Magister. They've graduated, been given full license, and then graduated from the drudgery of Wizard Grad School into realizing that they are now not only expected to constantly interrupt their very important research to go out on yet more quests and contracts for the good of their Order, but also possibly threatened with having to waste time teaching Apprentices and Journeymen. As consolation for this, they are (nominally) treated with respect both among their Order, their peer Orders, and by Imperial society at large, and no longer have demeaning nicknames, being known as Magister, Professor, or Sir/Madame.
Wizard Lords are the wizards who have made it to such a high level within their Order that they get to assign the annoying quests and contracts rather than needing to necessarily perform them themselves. Of course, if a Wizard Lord is getting involved in something personally, it's going to be a big deal for the Empire and the Order. They also finally outgrow their student loans! Once you hit this career you don't need to pay anymore. They are generally referred to as Lord, Master, or Master Magister.
Finally, the Magister Patriarch of an Order is the master of that Order. These men and women (despite the title, sometimes they are women; the early wizards didn't think of the possibility for some reason and they grumble about tradition and refuse to change the titles nowadays) are the highest mages in all of the Empire, and are all in the running to win the magic gauntlet necessary to become Supreme Patriarch of the Orders of Magic should a leadership contest come up. There is no Career for a Magister Patriarch; a PC who became one might well have finished their campaign by doing so, and mechanically a Magister Patriarch is 'just' a Wizard Lord who has all or almost all of the Wizard Lord advances. You know, 'just' a character who has completed four entire careers at minimum.
Next Time: Embarrassing sidebars on gender! What Happens If You Fail At Wizarding!
Women are naturally drawn to the gentle Jade wind
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Women are naturally drawn to the gentle Jade wind
Okay, so, I like this series a lot, but much like the weirdly out of nowhere racist shit about the Hung in Tome of Corruption we're about to get a really unnecessary and shitty sidebar about women in the Colleges. You might assume the Colleges have plenty of female students since anyone who is magically talented is supposed to be brought there. Instead we get a sidebar about how women are rare in the colleges because 'communities are more likely to burn women who are odd rather than turn them over' (at least it says that the contemporary theories about how women's minds aren't suited to magic are all flat out wrong). Thus the Colleges have little place for women's dormitories and things and it confuses the Magisters and also women are naturally drawn primarily to Jade and Amber magic. And the non-magical cleaning ladies and things are a true power because they can pester the Wizard Lords by doing their laundry for them and the whole thing just sucks. It's stupid, doesn't fit with the rest of the fluff, and this is the only place where we get any hint of this dumb little plot point. It's just about every dumb pitfall you could have short of trying to forbid female PCs from playing most kinds of wizard stuffed into a couple short paragraphs and thankfully is pretty easy to ignore.
Now, back to the better stuff. As I said, Apprentices have a rough life. They don't get paid, they have to do a lot of scutwork while also being introduced to the basics of magical training and academics, and for many Apprentices, this is the first time they've ever been away from home. The lack of standardization in when people are recruited also means you have ten year old kids in among twenty year old newly-discovered apprentices, all studying at the same grade level and being given similar tasks. This means it's much harder for them to socialize with peers their own age group than it would be as an apprentice in a mundane profession.
Apprentices also aren't allowed outside much. This is because Petty Magic is already very tempting (even though Apprentices are forbidden to use it without their master present or with special dispensation like being on a quest) for causing mischief, and Apprentices are usually an age where 'I can make it sound like there's an entire army or a fire or something' and 'I can create lights and shapes' and 'I can make someone fall asleep' could combine with the truly awful creativity of a group of bored teens daring each other to play with their abilities to cause unimaginable shame to the Colleges. The last thing they need is groups of bored wizard teens going out to get hammered and throwing around illusionary armies and magic darts all over Altdorf. The surest way to make sure that Apprentices don't get time to invite that kind of trouble is to never give them that time, and so for most Apprentices the concept of 'free time' remains theoretical until they make Journeyman.
Similarly, the Oaths sworn to the Colleges aren't just a legal matter. They actually bind the Apprentice to their instructors, a little like a magical electronic parole bracelet. A teacher can sense the presence of their Apprentice out to a hundred meters in most cases, and older and wiser instructors may be able to track you out several kilometers. They will therefore also know if you leave. Apprentices are threatened with terrible punishments if they try to flee the Colleges, such as telling the Hunters who they are and where their family lives. The wizards almost never do this unless it is an actual emergency; most of the threatening is just bluster, and even a surly and unwilling (or extremely homesick) Apprentice usually learns there's no escape after the third or fourth failed attempt. The easiest way to escape an Apprenticeship is to just keep your head down and study hard.
Sometimes, though, someone had enough talent to sense and work with the pettiest of magics but never felt an actual Wind upon their soul. Some wizard candidates are simply too weak to ever be full members of their Orders. I bet you're assuming they'd be killed, right? Wrong. These are called 'Perpetual Apprentices'. They still swear to an Order, and they are still members (and still technically wizards) rather than civilians or outsiders. They are instead employed in all manner of non-magical jobs that the Order could use help with, from guards, to valets, to cooks, or teaching assistants. They get more freedom and better treatment than the younger Apprentices, and their needs are taken care of by the Order that employs them. Indeed, for someone from a poor background, this is hardly a bad lot in life; three guaranteed meals a day, a safe place to sleep, a trade to practice and an opportunity to continue studying academics? There are worse lots in the Old World.
These Apprentices-in-Perpetuity are also often sent out into the world to operate hostelries for their Order. These both keep an eye on things in cities and large towns far from Altdorf and assist their masters in their studies and duties, and serve as waypoints for young Journeymen out on their first adventures. Many a struggling wizard grad student has met what they think to be a fairly normal citizen of the Empire who reveals themselves to be a fellow (minor) wizard and helps the poor person out with a place to sleep while they look for adventure and jobs. They can provide a very welcome helping hand to young wizards in a world usually hostile to magic users.
I love Perpetual Apprentices. It's a lovely bit of averted grimdark that makes perfect sense; they fulfill a useful job for the Orders of Magic and they provide a ready-made NPC template to help your PCs out. They're also a good concept for a PC who chooses to Exit out of the Wizard track after Apprentice; nothing wrong with playing a mostly-mundane character who helps out the Orders of Magic and has second sight but who follows a totally different Career Path, after all. It would be fun to play a spy or fixer or allied adventurer for the Orders.
Senior Apprentices are Apprentices who have dispensation to use magic without the supervision of their master, and are explicitly linked to the actual Apprentice Wizard Career. These young men and women are on the cusp of becoming Journeymen, and if they're a PC, were probably sent out on some final test or errand that leads them into adventure with the PC party. Their masters are still usually keeping an eye on them and they have to keep their permission slip on hand on their 'field trip', but they're the starting point for the average PC wizard.
Next Time: Wizard Grad School
Student Loan Debt
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Student Loan Debt
If the first period of a student's study isolates them so they can focus on their magical abilities, the second period punts them out into the world with no means of supporting themselves, crippling student loan debt, and technically a legal demand that they not come back for several years. They are sent out into the world with a letter from their master stating their master's name, address, and Order, a small amount of money (which they are expected to pay back), and if they did well as an apprentice, some references about where they might find a job to support themselves for this period of their education.
The theory behind the Journeying period in a wizard's life is that a young wizard (though most Journeymen are in their late twenties or early thirties) who has proven stable and competent as an Apprentice needs some seasoning and exposure to the 'real world'. As they are not fully licensed yet, a Journeyman's master is still on the hook if their student gets up to trouble out in the world, so Magisters tend to be careful in selecting students to send out. The Order receives a significant portion of the Journeyman's earnings and tends to encourage them to seek out other wizards of their sort out in the world to study under while they work and support themselves. The Hunters also consider it a sacred duty to annoy Journeymen; this is the last period before the wizard becomes a Magister and thus is the last period where it's trivial to stop and search them for black magic, ask them for their license at the drop of a (wide brimmed) hat, and otherwise pester them to remind them the Hunters are watching and scare them straight.
Most Orders do not encourage Journeymen to become adventurers, even though it's a natural fit for the position. Remember that in Warhams, an adventurer is looked at as some kind of lunatic hobo (until they're particularly successful and wealthy, anyway) because what kind of maniac gets together with only 3-5 buddies and goes out looking for trouble? Most Magisters would encourage their students to seek a commission with the Imperial Army, or at least join a large and well-funded mercenary company that can also pay the Order for the privilege of having their own 'battle wizard' (who is in fact an overtaxed grad student). The Grey, Amber, Jade, and Light Orders actually encourage ADVENTURE, though; Grey wizards are already tricky hobo mages and know adventurers get up to all kinds of shenanigans they'd want reported back to the Order. Light wizards tend to be idealists and take a more romantic view of the traveling wizard-hero learning a little about the world and maybe the power of friendship. Jade and Amber wizards just think it's good for the kids to get out and about on the road and see the forests.
Another important part of the Journeying period is the need to make as much money for oneself as possible. In addition to all the other tests and probably literal wizard duel thesis defenses, a Journeyman has to pay the Colleges back for their education to become a Magister. The amount a Journeyman owes is varied depending on how much the Magisters like them. The Magisters are very blatant about this, sometimes hiking prices specifically to make it impossible to pay for one's license in order to keep someone in the Journeying period until they're 'ready'. A very favored Journeyman will merely be told that they have to give the Order everything they earned on Journey (rather than a specific sum) with the understanding that particularly important objects will be given back as graduation presents after their thesis defense.
Journeymen are generally considered full wizards by the people they meet out in the Empire, much to the annoyance of actual Magisters. They are still treated as representatives of their Order and if they do not behave themselves, will find their student loans increasingly burdensome or their licenses revoked. If a Magister feels a Journeyman has not yet learned the lessons they were supposed to learn out in the world, they can send them back out; some Magisters will do so until the Journeyman first starts to show the Arcane Marks of being changed by their Wind.
Actual Magisters have finally made it. Once a Journeyman pays their dues, confirms they haven't grown a tentacle or two on their travels, and satisfies their master to sign off on their promotion, they are taken to the College to finish their training. During this time, they are given free leave to study and work as much as they wish, essentially entering a period of working on a graduate thesis and preparing for their final qualifying exams. I'm really not kidding about them being Wizard Grad Students. The final thesis defense for a young would-be Magister is a wizard duel with the head of their examining committee, which the Magister-to-be is not expected to win (though they will be celebrated if they do) and which is explicitly non-fatal. If they show cunning, determination, and properly try to defend themselves, they will be accepted as a full Magister of their Order.
A curiosity of Imperial Magisters compared to other magic users within the setting is how they grow increasingly incapable of actually working with any Wind besides the one they chose. Human Imperial Magisters are also unique in the degree to which their Wind influences them; an elf who is studying Bright magic as their minor apprenticeship may be passionate and courageous, but a human Bright Wizard will grow increasingly reckless and hyperactive, and will even show physical signs like having their hair turn the color of fire or their irises replaced with blazing flames. This only happens to humans, and generally only to the ones who study Imperial magic. It seems curious that this is a unique phenomena among humans who learned a crash-course method of single-wind magic, doesn't it? This is also why so many rogue Magisters turn to Chaos. They can no longer work with 'other' winds without the assistance of outside forces like demons.
Becoming a Magister is not the end of a wizard's prospects for advancement, though it does mark the first point in their life where they are finally independent. A Magister dreams of one day becoming a Magister Lord, an honored title that reflects the highest levels of achievement in their Order's art. A Magister Lord has been so thoroughly altered by their Wind and their constant exposure to magic that they simply don't see the world the way normal humans do. More than ever, they cannot shut out the ever-present auras and flows of magic from their Witchsight, and they feel much of the hum and thrum of the world's background magic. By this point of power, a Magister will have done enough deeds and made enough connections that even those outside the Colleges likely know of them and show them the same respect common to high nobles. These are the great and powerful Wizard Lords fielded to defend Imperial armies, or to advise the Emperor himself. Every Magister dreams of the legitimacy, respect, and enormous sums of money they would be due were they to advance to the point of being a Magister Lord.
Next Time: The Orders of Magic, and their many plot hooks
An impossible dream
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
An impossible dream
The Orders are going to take a lot of updates. Likely one for each Order, as their writeups are detailed and go into their history, what their Winds represent in more detail, and how the Order tries to express their Wind's dream in the world.
We start with the White Order, the Light Wizards who work the wind of Hysh. Hysh is the magic of enlightenment and illumination, both literal and metaphorical. Thus it represents philosophy, contemplation, and comfort as well as laser eyes and blinding lights. Hysh also embodies the paradoxical, impossible, and yet valuable hope that one day Chaos can be exterminated entirely, and this is one of the chief duties of the Light Order. They know they can't succeed; their magic uses the stuff of Chaos as it is, and Chaos will always exist, but trying is valuable in and of itself. The world should contain the least possible Chaos.
Hysh is the hardest of all the Winds to control because it represents such a broad concept, with so many different metaphorical meanings. In practice, Imperial Magisters narrow it to illumination, abjuration, and healing. Illumination represents both physical illumination and the magic of inspiration. Healing doesn't simply represent healing the body (though Light Wizards can do a little bit of that, and it's very helpful) but also the comfort and conditioning of the mind. Healing represents the aspect of Hysh as a bringer of the light of hope, and also brings the Light Wizards into alignment with the Shallyan Orders. Abjuration is their most famous power: Light Wizards are some of the best demon-hunters and exorcists in the Empire. They are trained to draw out unclean spirits, to fill the being of the afflicted with light to drive out all darkness, and to do all they can to banish the horrors of Chaos back to the hell that spawned them by the application of ordered, reasoned magic to their changeable madness.
These wizards also love harmony and structure, and tend to ritualize their magic. Light Magic is not a flight of fancy or a burst of passion, but an ordered, reasoned, and careful work constructed to bring enlightenment. They form their Apprentices into choirs and use group rituals to contain the power of their magic and harmonize the Light wind into place. This structure and reason is necessary to overcome the difficulty of using their Wind, but it also makes the Light Wizards much less vulnerable to corruption and Chaos.
This is why when the Orders were formed, Teclis charged the White Order with destroying Chaos. They can't, and again, they know they can't, but they are to lead the way and inspire others by trying. They were also charged with trying to drive out darkness with light, rather than fire; from the early days the Crusade of the White Order has been about precise, targeted strikes on cult magi and demonic influence, leaving as many of the innocent safe and alive as possible. They were supposed to be an example to all who fight Chaos, that it is possible to defeat its presence in a village or town without burning the whole damn thing down. They express that duty best in their work as exorcists, and the Magisters of the Order travel the Empire in secret to drive off madness and evil that infects its citizens, before violence becomes necessary.
They also try to drive out Chaos by enlightenment. Light Wizards are well known as teachers and philosophers, who consider the act of stopping and thinking a valuable end of itself. They are also some of the foremost students of metamagic in the Empire, considering how it is that the Aethyr works how it does, how magic can separate out from Chaos (or indeed, if it can), where one can find the line between the two, and why magic is so drawn to sentient existence.
The Light Order is often employed as a source of councilors and scholars, and their overt anti-Chaos abilities have made them generally one of the most trusted of the Orders. In times of war they are called upon to banish demons, but also to inspect the Empire's soldiers. By seeking out and curing Chaos corruption within the armies before they can reach critical mass, the Light Order can prevent dramatic failings of loyalty and acts of sabotage. The Light Order is also charged with watching over many relics and bound horrors that could not be destroyed; sometimes binding a demon in an artifact and holding them in storage is safer than just killing their manifestation and sending them home.
Magisters of the White Order are rational, like the Gold Order, but are less concerned with facts and figures and more with the orderly process of thought and rhetoric. They care as much (or more) about how a conclusion came about than what the conclusion might be. They also tend to be very self controlled, often to a fault. They can sometimes be so concerned with avoiding 'chaotic' displays of overt emotion and extreme passion that they can come off as emotionally deadened, an effect that only grows as they become more and more influenced by their Wind. A White Magister can also grow too concerned with putting the world into Light and Shadow, and they must take care not to become too obsessed with the idea of destroying all Evil.
Strangely, for one of the most difficult Winds and a Wind that specifically swears its followers to celibacy, they have the most Apprentices and aspirants of any Order. This is partly because they are famous and well-regarded, and partly because they need huge numbers of Apprentices to serve in the binding choirs and rituals guided by the experienced Magisters. Their association with Shallyans means they are welcome in the orphanages of the Empire's cities, and they draw many of their recruits from the Empire's abandoned children. They produce more permanent Apprentices than any other College, which suits the wizards just fine; they needed the backup singers anyway.
Being wizards of Light, their actual College is a magical pyramid hidden in the middle of the city, tucked into a fold in space at the intersection of six leylines. One of the requirements for being a Light wizard is being able to see the College at all, as the illusions and strangeness that hide it can be penetrated by those talented in the perception of Hysh. Those who live in the folds of physical space used to hide the College have to find their way by landmarks and intuition, because the alleys and streets no longer make sense, given that they exist simultaneously as a magical wizard college and a relatively run-down district of a major city on a riverbank.
Vesperian Kant is the current Magister Patriarch of the Light College. A merchant's son from Tilea and later Marienburg who taught himself as much as he could after his father disdained education, Kant found himself in the workhouses of Marienburg after his father's business failed and his family was split apart by sickness and suicide. He was eventually discovered as a magical talent during the Light Order's sweeps of the orphanages, and taken into their training. Kant was one of the few Light Wizards who was able to penetrate the schemes of the great traitor and previous Patriarch of Light, the terrible Van Horstmann. He was regarded as a mad paranoiac for suspecting the Patriarch of his Order of Chaos worship, and eventually had to end-run around his order and bring the matter directly to the Grand Theoganist to beg for help. Volkmar being a cool guy, he lent Kant a team of experienced Witch Hunters and his own personal aid, and together they brought Horstmann to light. Kant has been Patriarch ever since.
Horstmann is the greatest failure of the Order of Light. Like most Tzeentch worshipers, Horstmann doesn't really have much of a character reason for the things he did; he vaguely wanted more knowledge and eventually let evil into his mind as Chaos usually does. No tragic backstory or anything. Just kind of an overreaching dick and a Chaos God who thought it'd be funny (and useful) to turn the guardian of Light into an evil sorcerer. Horstmann escaped and survived being revealed, and now runs a general Chaos illuminati around the Empire, aided by freed macguffins and dark demons he broke out of the wizard jail under the Pyramid of Light. He's a fairly generic big bad evil wizard who wants to help Chaos because, uh, Chaos, as is usually the case with Chaos.
Magister Volans was the first Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic, and the first Magister Patriarch of the Light Order. He is also one of the only humans in history to be able to perceive High Magic (Perceive, not work). Hailing from the ruined and lawless Border Princes, he had spent decades experimenting with the observation of magic before he was brought in by Teclis' amnesty. Upon realizing the self-restraint and remarkable talent of this human, he and the Loremaster came to be close friends, with Teclis astonished to see that a human of fifty could perceive the harmony of the Winds in such a way. Much of the theorizing on the nature of magic in the book comes from Magister Volans, and he is revered as one of the greatest theorists of magic in human history. He was also one of the first to set down the Colleges' curriculum and patterns of study, with the help of Teclis. The Colleges are Volans' legacy to the world, a testament to his patience and love of study.
Next: The Gold Order
Elemantalist means something new to SCIENCE WIZARD
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Elemantalist means something new to SCIENCE WIZARD
Chamon is the Yellow Wind, called the Gold Wind by humans. It represents the desire for structure, surety, and predictability, towards the goal of being able to catalogue and understand all things. It also represents refining and shaping, specifically in the sense that the more a Gold wizard learns, the more they want to learn, because what they learned before will be a foundation for new puzzles and new things to understand and catalogue. The Wind itself is attracted to and conducted by many metals and chemicals, but actual gold draws it in better than anything else. Wizards theorize this may be one reason every race in the setting values gold, and that dwarves may have some inherent resonance with the Wind of Metal that aids in their runeworking and their mastery of metallurgy. This has never been proven, of course, and suggesting to a dwarf that they possess any sort of magical resonance is a good way to get a long-winded lecture in how the dawi (dorfs) need no such umgi (humans) or elgi (elfs) tomfoolery.
While Magisters of the Gold Order can pull off temporary transmutations in battle that change an enemy's steel and iron into lead, permanent transmutation is nearly impossible. A Gold Magister can change the shape of an object permanently and with great effect; you could give one several steel ingots and they could weave them together into one of the finest steel swords you've ever seen, but they couldn't create the steel from nothing and they couldn't turn a lead slug into a steel dagger permanently. They could do it temporarily, lasting for days or even weeks if they're a very powerful mage, but there is something to the form of materials that makes it very difficult to change one substance into another without the magic eventually running out and the substance reverting to form. This curious property leads into the main obsessions and studies of the Order: Discovering why this is, and if there is a way to circumvent it.
By studying what can and cannot be transmuted, the Gold Order has slowly begun putting together the modern concept of a periodic table of elements. They're beginning to learn more and more modern chemistry through their mandate to create and study the material sciences for the good of the Empire and their association with the Empire's non-magical scholars and alchemists. The constant need for funding, reagents, and rare materials has the College acquiring stakes in almost every chemical endeavor in the Empire, with most of the mundane guilds of apothecaries and alchemists now under the Order's banner. They use these as a recruiting ground, studying the apprentices and students of the various guilds to look for sparks of magical talent. This has the added bonus of giving them a large pool of Apprentices who already know something about laboratory procedure when they arrive; even if a student has magical potential the Gold Order will usually let them study under a normal alchemy guild for a little while before sending them to Altdorf, to ensure that when they arrive they won't be prone to blowing up the labs.
Indeed, driven by the fundamental pressure of their Wind, much of the work of a Gold wizard isn't even magical. They'll introduce magic, which they revere as the 'Prime Reagent' since it will react with and invoke change in any substance, but much of their work is just studying and cataloguing how things react and why. After all, if you don't need to use magic to refine a new and better formula for the mass production of gunpowder, why use it? The Order funds itself partly by experimenting with and manufacturing immediately useful consumer goods for sale. Improved soaps, new perfumes, new dyes and glues and pigments, all of these come out of the labs of the Gold order. Meanwhile, the strange wizards employ all manner of adventurers and servants to go out and find them unusual materials and substances to study. One of the other secret mandates of the Order is their drive to study how to work Gromril without needing to rely on the dwarves, and how on earth the elves create Ithmilar. These are both difficult to carry out, since they have to be done in the utmost of secrecy and acquiring samples of these powerful metals is beyond expensive.
It's interesting to read about how the elves reacted to the first human Gold wizards; they seem to have found them an amusing curiosity, laughing a little at their sudden desire for experimentation and categorization. I'm not sure how much value the generally-disdainful-of-engineering-and-science elves actually placed in the Gold Wind, but when humans are exposed to it learning only drives them to new possibilities of learning even more. Gold wizards are also known for seeking out the knowledge of other lands, with an especial fondness for the chemistry and mathematics practiced in Araby. An unusual number of Gold wizards are originally from Araby as it is, since the traveling wizards have a great interest in the local scholars and are apt to find yet another skilled mathematician, chemist, or herbalist who turns out to have been magically gifted all along to bring back to Altdorf.
The other duty of the Gold College is manufacturing magical items for use by the Empire's armies and most important agents. No-one in Warhammer can simply 'buy' a magic sword or necklace on the market, but one could commission one for more money than a minor noble sees in their lifetime from the Gold College. These items are rare and generally only given to important heroes, agents, and the richest of the Empire's nobles. They also aren't as powerful as the Runecraft of the dwarfs or the ancient sorcery of the elves, but a human-made magical relic is still well beyond any mundane item.
The current Supreme Patriarch of the Orders of Magic is Balthazar Gelt, a Gold Wizard from Araby who made his own way to Altdorf, guided by the power of Chamon and his willingness to pay his way by false, temporarily transmuted gold (usually a grave crime for a Gold mage). Staying one step ahead of angry owners of newly minted lead slugs, he entered the Colleges and submitted himself to be examined for taint. The Magisters discovered he was a rarity; a natural talent who possessed all three magical senses, yet who had only ever felt one Wind call to him. He was admitted as a student of the Gold Order immediately, where he obsessed over the possibility of 'true' transmutation of materials. Gelt is open minded and very inquisitive, much less inflexible than most Gold wizards; a new idea or method has to be tested and examined but shouldn't be dismissed before then. During his work, something happened in his lab. Ever since then he hasn't been seen in public without his concealing robes and golden mask. The rumors range from 'he's hiding tentacles' to 'idiot blew himself up' to 'that's actually his face, he turned himself to gold', and he ignores all of them. He is also a very ambitious man: He became Supreme Patriarch by entering the challenge for the position and beating the head of the Bright Order before he even bothered to be confirmed Magister Patriarch of Gold. Some whisper he mainly bothered to become Patriarch because the Supreme Patriarch's Wind will become stronger in Altdorf, and it was merely a matter of convenience for his own obsession with Chamon. Nevertheless, he has proven competent to the position and served as a steady, helpful advisor to the Emperor and a good organizer for the Colleges. Even if it is simply for his own research and ambitions, a competent steward of the Orders is never amiss.
Gottlif Puchta is long dead, but he lives on in his many treatises and works on the nature of magic and its interactions with the physical world. Many of the sidebars about how magic works are excerpts from his theories. His 'Modest Treatise on the Nature of Magic' is one of the most cherished works of human magical theory, to the point that the massive tome adorns the libraries of Emperors and high nobles who want to understand a little bit about what all their wizards are on about as well as the bookshelves of mages. He is responsible for the prevailing theory that even mortal thought is more 'real' than raw Aethyric energy, which thus allows thought and ritual to mould and 'cool' the energy into the shape of a spell on contact with reality.
There's a lot more detail about Middenheim's own little wizard college, the Guild of Wizards and Alchemists, established because of the distance between Middenheim and Altdorf and its strategic importance, but that was partly covered in the Ashes of Middenheim stuff. Suffice to say they exist as a way of saying the Gold wizards own almost every alchemy guild in the Empire, and that it's ruled over by a collaboration (by treaty) of a senior Gold Magister and a senior Blue Magister. They form a buddy-cop team of a frumpy, distracted science wizard and a much more personable and friendly lady Astromancer, who keep everything running in the Empire's northern city.
Mystery of the Druids
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Mystery of the Druids
Ghyran, the Jade Wind, is the Wind of Life. It represents the creative urge in all living things, and the ebbs and flows of any healthy ecosystem. This sense of ebb and flow attracts the magic to riverways and makes it flow more like water than wind, which also explains why Jade wizards are able to control water (and why it's so hard for Nurglites to poison rivers; they're powerful and full of Life magic). Jade magic is one of the oldest magics practiced by human wizards, and unlike most of the Colleges the Order actively reaches back into older human history for inspiration and tradition. Humans may not be as sensitive to magic as elves, but even the early human shamans and druids could feel the magic of the Jade wind and it tended to pool in places where a tribe would want to settle, anyway. Jade is especially drawn to the various henges that were probably originally built by the Old Ones, and adopted as some of humanity's first sacred sites before the humans conceived of the more modern ideas of the Gods and Pantheons.
While they draw on older traditions (and indeed, even call themselves Druids), Jade wizards are a much more modern manifestation of the old fertility rites and experimental ceremonies that the old Druids used to believe fed the earth. While an older Druid may've been able to summon enough power to ensure their tribe could eat and wouldn't die from the local water source, a modern Jade wizard may have to feed an army on the march or ensure that a city's waterways stay sanitary; a much bigger and more daunting task. While they work to support the Empire's cities, most Jade wizards don't feel drawn to them. They prefer open, wild spaces and bodies of water that help pool and power their magic. They can purify water, summon great geysers from under the earth (which also act as a source of fresh water), heal the injured and sick, cure blights, restore fertility to fallow lands, animals, or people (if you need an heir, hire a Jade wizard for a blessing), and are generally amazingly helpful people to have around in an early modern context.
When Teclis was first gathering the human mages, he found people still practicing folk versions of the old Druidic beliefs, especially in areas that held standing henges. Knowing the significance of these places, he was quick to teach the newly recruited Druids (now Jade wizards) just what those henges and waystones represented. As they can feel the flow of leyline magic better than most Imperial Magisters, the Jade Order consider themselves the guardians of these sacred spaces, and travel long distances to make certain the Empire's magical balance is maintained among the stones that inspired their ancestors. The Jade Order's adventuring wizards can be found in every corner of the Empire, studying old standing stones to see if they sit at intersections of leylines and mapping the Empire's magical flows the same way cartographers map its waterways. They then use this knowledge to direct the flow of life energy throughout the Empire via ancient (and new) rituals that will promote the repair of blighted or corrupted regions in the aftermath of the Empire's conflicts.
The Jade wizards have a College building that they almost never bother with. They can be reached by leaving a message at their barely-maintained College, but they spend most of their time congregating and teaching in the rural communities surrounding Altdorf instead. Similarly, they don't concern themselves as much with the formal contracts and business deals most of the other wizardly Orders do. Instead, they are given a standing charge to ensure the Empire's farmland doesn't fall into famine and to come if there's a call to war, and in return the Emperor sets aside a sufficient endowment for the College's upkeep from the treasury. Officially, the order to keep the Empire's agriculture working is the only duty of the Jade Order. Unofficially, as I said above, they are the guardians of the Empire's leylines and waystones. They also clean up Warpstone and other magical pollutants, besides just countering intentional blights from necromancy and Nurglites. In times of war they keep dysentery away from the army, ensure the foraging of an army won't ravage the countryside, feed the Empire's armies, and spy on enemies by asking rivers and trees if they've seen anything unusual.
Unlike a lot of wizards, Jade wizards tend to be friendly and energetic people. Most find pleasure in the company of others just as much as they enjoy their gardening, and they are the most likely of all wizards to have a normal family. Most Jade wizards will marry another Jade wizard, and their children will almost always be magically gifted. By the very nature of their Wind, they are drawn to produce more of themselves. They are also prone to changing with the seasons, growing more energetic and active in spring and summer, and becoming dour and downbeat in fall and winter. Most also perk up when it rains.
Unusually, the Jade Order does not demand crippling student loans from its wizards for reasons of its own increase or upkeep. Jade Apprentices give up many of their possessions in order to teach them to survive off the land, and that they don't need money or metal, but the Order has little use for much besides its official upkeep. Jade training resembles religious ceremony more than any other school of magic, with ancient rituals re-enacted at sacred groves and places of power and lessons bound to the flow of the seasons. Some lessons can only be taught at certain times of the year, or when the moons are in specific positions, and this limits how quickly a young wizard can be trained.
Of all the Empire's wizards, Jade wizards are the most welcomed in its communities. Yes, they're still a wizard, and thus a strange imposition on the world, but where they walk the crops grow, children are born healthy, and livestock thrive; even the most superstitious and bigoted of the Empire's citizens can appreciate that. Jade wizards find more resistance in cities, where their tendency to go barefoot and walk around with flowers in their hair have them marked as backwards bumpkins compared to the more 'modern' Gold Order.
The College itself is a huge walled garden in the middle of Altdorf, built on a natural intersection of power to provide a refuge of nature within the largest city in the Old World. The gardens are larger on the inside than the outside, as is the way of places suffused with powerful magic. Very little teaching is done here. The area serves as more of a home away from home for Magisters who have business in Altdorf, a reminder that even in the heart of the city the Wind of Life still has its place. The center of the College is a huge building of living wood, grown into place from the trees that have grown up around an ancient and powerful Waystone. It is here that the Magister Lords of the Order sit and wait for someone to call on their aid, while tending to the gardens to pass the time.
The Jade Order has the only female leader in the book, Magister Matriarch Tochter Grunfeld (daughter Grunfeld? Really? Tochter is not a first name, book). She is a dedicated mother and instructor, having raised eight children who have all gone on to become successful Magisters of the Order, and was recently elected after the prior Matriarch was killed in action against Archaon's armies. An old woman who has been operating as a full Magister for at least sixty years, she hopes to begin driving back the creeping blight that has been advancing out of Sylvania while the Empire has been busy. To this end, she drives her Order to aid the communities of the eastern Empire, which will also put them in the path of the corruption spread by Archaon's armies.
Next Time: Tricky Wizards who like to steal
His Imperial Majesty's Secret Service
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
His Imperial Majesty's Secret Service
The Grey Wind of Ulgu represents the feelings of confusion and disorientation. It is drawn to the occult, the obfuscated, and the hidden, and the Magisters drawn to the Wind of Ulgu love secrets and knowledge. Though they call their magic 'Cryptoclastic Thaumaturgy' they are the Empire's masters of illusions and tricks. While Shadowmancers are sent to the battlefield to conceal the movement of troops and confound enemy scouts, their real role is as a branch of the Empire's intelligence services, reporting directly to their Order rather than to the Emperor or the nobles that they advise. The Shadowmancers consider themselves above individual political appointees and work among the cities and provinces of the Empire, maintaining webs of informants and secret messages that they use to expose the hidden dealings of others. While the White Order prosecutes overt dark magic and assails cases of demonic possession, the Shadowmancers of the Grey Order arrange accidents, unveil secrets, and expose threats to what they see as acceptable Imperial order from both mundane and Chaos threats.
As you might imagine, there are problems with a self-appointed order of illusionist intelligence operatives who specifically do everything they can to operate without any legal oversight. Shadowmancers are fairly rare, like all Magisters, but they risk stepping on the toes of 'legitimate' law enforcement like the Witch Hunters, especially as they usually don't tell anyone else what they're up to. Their ability to cloak their activities with magic, to operate as if they were someone else entirely, and to conjure forth illusion and deception makes identifying them and organizing them very difficult. This independence, dangerous as it is, started from a reasonable root: When Volans was organizing the Colleges under Teclis the Empire had just come off of centuries of civil war. Shadow magic would be especially useful to the maneuverings of the Elector Counts, and as is always the case with spies and assassins, the powers that be worried that the Grey Order could end up a destabilizing influence in the struggles of Imperial politics. There was also worry that an individual corrupt Emperor could use sole control of a powerful intelligence agency to secure their rule against any comers, or cloak terrible activities. So they were told not to seek direct contracts and binding vows with any of the Empire's political bodies, and to simply take it as their mandate that they use their abilities to oppose Chaos and support the 'institutions' of the Empire. The Grey Order being an entirely self-policing intelligence service with no effective oversight and a broad mandate was an inevitable result of refusing to bind it directly to any Imperial institution. The Empire hasn't paid for this yet, but it's hard to believe that will continue forever.
The Order attempts to control its agents by making them take strict vows of poverty and swear oaths to only use their powers for the 'good of the Empire', but given it's an entire Order of master illusionists, tricksters, and liars I can't imagine any of that is easy to enforce. Not only that, but what happens when an agent has a very different view of 'the good of the Empire' than their Order would conventionally sanction? The book mentions that the Grey Order has had to sanction, Pacify, or otherwise deal with more of its members than any other Order as a result of having to be on guard against rogue agents at all hours, but that just sounds like a sign of a persistent problem rather than coming off as effective policing like the writer intends. If you're constantly having to prosecute people who break your strictures, your strictures are not doing a good job of preventing issues in the first place.
Curiously, one of the great symbols of the Grey Order is the sword, and members are expected to become competent with a blade (there is no mechanical distinction for this; Grey wizards don't get any special skills with swordfighting and would have to multiclass to be a competent hand to hand fighter, same as any other wizard). Almost all Shadowmancers carry a sword somewhere on their person, though they may keep it hidden with either magic or their favored concealing robes.
When Teclis was first choosing students for the Grey Order, he selected for honest and honorable individuals. Most Shadowmancers think of themselves as very loyal people, loyal to their Empire and the struggle against Chaos; what does it matter if they lie or deceive so long as they are lying and deceiving in the name of the Empire? They tend to be pragmatic individuals who like to see situations resolved with a minimum of bloodshed and force. To that end, assassinating a rebel noble before they manage to raise an army or tricking someone into revealing their crimes before their peers is preferable to dramatic arrests or epic battles. Shadowmancers believe that study of magic, politics, and history are all important, but that all such knowledge needs to be applicable to fieldcraft. Everything you learn should be used in the field, otherwise what was the point of learning it? They believe they are quietly shaping a better world with every garroted crime lord, every 'accident', and every scandal.
The College of Shadow almost never takes applicants who come to them; they believe that a proper Shadowmancer should have the practice thrust onto them out of nowhere, and that a student who actively wanted to use the power of Ulgu before being trained will be prone to misusing it or becoming a rogue agent. They also prefer to take their students very young, so that they won't have had too much experience with the 'real' before being exposed to a world of illusion; a less charitable interpretation would be that they prefer having students they can more easily indoctrinate into their Order's ideas about state security. Magisters of the Grey Wind tend to travel much more than other Colleges, and they take their Apprentices with them on their adventures. Rather than spending all their time in a College building, Shadow Apprentices are usually out serving as lookouts and sidekicks while their master pushes someone off a balcony.
The College itself is actually exactly where you'd expect it to be: Hidden in plain sight in the worst part of Altdorf as a bunch of 'abandoned' buildings that are all bigger on the inside than they seem to be on the outside. Inside, the Magisters keep their records of all of the secrets they have uncovered, a veritable treasure-trove of blackmail material accumulated by the Empire's magic spies. Like Jade wizards, there are only a few desk-jockeys within the crumbling, decrepit buildings of the College of Shadow at any specific time.
Reiner Starker is the current Patriarch of the Order and he is a fanatic. Not just a fanatic believer in his Order and their duties, but a fanatical follower of Sigmar. Everything about him is about as you'd expect; skilled infiltrator, decent teacher, terrifying assassin, except for his strong faith in Sigmar himself, and his desire to inspire that faith in others. This is very unusual in a wizard, as they usually don't get that devout. Such is Reiner's faith that he is often mistaken for one of the Witch Hunters when he wanders abroad, and he will take any steps he feels he must to stiffen the belief of improperly pious villages and noble households in his path.
Next Time: Heads in the Clouds.
Collapse the waveform?
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Collapse the waveform?
The Blue Wind of Azyr is the power of longing, inspiration, and imagination. It is the desire to touch that which is beyond, to see certainty in the uncertain, and to discover things one would have to imagine before they could even know they didn't know them. The Wind refuses to stay chained to the ground, and disperses into the upper atmosphere and the heavens, meaning that the wizards of Azyr spend long hours studying the stars to determine the eddies and flows of their Wind of Magic. Magisters of Azyr are known as Celestial Wizards or Astromancers for their ability to read the future in the stars. They are also called on to control and regulate the weather and avert natural disaster.
The single most famous and important aspect of the Blue Wind is its ability to tell the future. Everyone thinks they want to know what will happen before it happens, but the Wind is capricious and chooses what to show the wizard when they look into the stars. To aid in their studies, the Blue wizards have developed (sometimes with the aid of dwarven engineers) all manner of devices for measuring the movements of the heavens. Their magic is partly a mystical process of studying the heavens, yes, but the heavens move according to mathematics and astronomy. Thus, Blue wizards have developed the science of statistical analysis and probability; never gamble with a Blue wizard. They're as likely to beat you by counting cards as to have used any of their magical tricks. According to the principle that one shouldn't use magic where science will suffice, they are also experts at mundane meteorology and predicting the weather. They often share their latest mathematical theories and findings with their colleagues in the Gold College, often while asking them to help build this new telescope or that new astrolab, and the two Colleges are very close.
One of the reasons they prefer to use non-magical prognostication and statistical analysis where possible is that what magic will show an Astromancer is uncertain. It will show the future. It will show a very likely (maybe even certain) future. But when a wealthy noble of the Empire asks to have his fortune read to see if he should go ahead with a business dealing, the Astromancer may see something very unfortunate instead, like the exact moment and means of his death. Moreover, the Order is devoted to seeking truth, and they are sworn to accurately and completely report what they see. So if the above Astromancer saw what they saw, they would be obligated by their vows to the Order to tell the unfortunate man. In cases with such precise visions, they very commonly come true exactly as predicted, often after the subject tries to avoid them. To this end, Astromancers fear to observe the future of an individual so directly.
Astromancers also have another power that terrifies people: They seem to be able to manipulate Fate. Literally, in game terms; if you'll remember their capstone spell burns a target's Fate Point and/or makes sure the next critical they'll take (if they have no Fate) will be +10 and thus automatically lethal. They can bring lesser misfortunes as well, but they only ever seem to be able to manipulate Fate towards misfortune. The Astromancers themselves wonder about the implications of this sort of magic; if destiny was immutable, how could they possibly cut short someone's good fortune or call disaster down on their heads? What does this mean for the accuracy of their predictions and prognostications?
In addition to all the future magic they can just throw a lightning bolt at you or change the weather or call upon the power of wind and flight, which is pretty cool. It doesn't have COSMIC IMPLICATIONS, but who doesn't want to fly around hurling lightning bolts at the forces of evil? Changing the weather also helps them keep the Empire's agriculture working, in concert with the Jade Order.
Astromancers love to give the impression that they know everything that will happen before it happens. They don't, but they cultivate the ability to nod sagely and pretend not to be surprised, whatever happens. They tend to be slightly absent-minded and dreamy scholars, always imagining new things and working on some new theorem in the back of their heads. They also practice looking contemplative and tend to stare up at the heavens without realizing they're doing so, sometimes in the middle of a conversation.
An Apprentice coming to the Blue College of their own volition will be accepted, regardless of how they do on the dozens of entrance exams. These examinations are merely a form of calibration, studying the statistics of student aptitude so that the student can be started at the right point in their education and matched to the right teacher. The Blue College has a reputation of foresight to uphold, after all, and that starts with seeming to know exactly what a student needed. The few who are turned away are usually sent to the College of Light, with a letter of introduction and a polite explanation that they'd mixed up what kind of wise scholar they wished to become and that the matter is now sorted. Apprentices are then assigned to a teacher and expected to stay within the College, assisting their teacher and learning as much math and astronomy as they can handle. Blue wizards value punctuality and diligence in a student.
The Celestial College is in central Altdorf, near the Imperial Palace, but few locals bother to look up and notice the grand observatory above their heads. The spells of fate hide the College from the common person, and are designed to ensure only someone who has guidance or who can see the strands of fate and magic will find the school. The College is actually a massive building of sixteen enormous towers, built of blue and white stone and topped with grand glass domes to allow the inhabitants to study the heavens. The huge towers are the result of an early period in the College's history when the Masters of the College competed with one another to build more and grander observational towers, in honor of the first Patriarch. This is also why all sixteen towers are different heights. Once sixteen towers had been built and the structure started to creak, the Patriarch declared that that was enough towers, and so the College has looked as it does ever since.
Unlike some of the others, the Celestial College is a busy place full of students, professors, libraries, and classrooms. This academy is the heart of Celestial Magic in the Empire, and many tenured professors and Magisters never leave it once they attain enough status to focus on their teaching and research. The College is busiest in the evening, with most Magisters staying up late to stargaze and sleeping well into the day. Anyone trying to sneak about the College will find it impossible; the servants of the College are attuned to the Blue Wind and know precisely where and when everyone inside will be where they are.
The current Magister Patriarch is actually interesting. Raphael Julevno is the son of an actress and a traveling mercenary (he never met his father) who grew up in Nuln. He began to see visions at the age of twelve, and at fifteen, he saw a future where he ended up in a workhouse, and then a madhouse, because his mother felt the boy had caused more than enough trouble for her and intended to sell him off as a 'lunatic'. Being able to see it coming, he ran away from home and saw a new future in a college of gleaming, impossible towers, a vision that guided him to Altdorf. In Altdorf, he found the building, was told he had been expected, and entered the Blue Order. He proceeded to excel at his studies, earning his Magisterial title by 29 (being the first Celestial Wizard to beat his 30s in ending his Journeyman period) and settling in to a long academic career. At 50, he saw his first vision of Archaon marching south. A year later, he saw his friend, the Patriarch Stern Glanzand, dying in battle against the hordes of the North. When he tried to warn him, the Patriarch told him he had already seen it himself, and that he had further seen that Raphael would be the next Patriarch. Nothing could dissuade the old man facing his fate, and soon enough Raphael was elected Patriarch, despite having told no-one of the old master's vision. They had all seen that he was to become their next leader.
He has recently begun to wonder, though; was he elected Patriarch because it was his fate, or was he elected because the various wizards had observed that he would be elected and acted on it? Did Master Glanzand march to his death solely because he had seen it, and thus believed he could no longer avoid it? Was the observation of these possibilities making them more likely? Would they have occurred if these futures had not been seen and acted upon (or not acted upon) by the Magisters? What comes first? The vision, or the likely outcome? The role of perception in making a foreseen future has been keeping the Patriarch up at night. If Fate is some sort of agency that works on being observed and acted upon, what is guiding Fate?
Next Time: Death is Certain!
An End of All Things
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
An End of All Things
Shyish, the Wind of Death, is a representation of the natural end of all things. It is not the gurgling decay of a Nurglite or the rotting power of a Necromancer, but rather the dream of a complete life, peacefully ended. It also represents the acceptance of the limitation of all things. The Amethyst wizards who wield it are often dour and grim people, to be so drawn to the idea of the end. At the same time, they possess a powerful respect for life and a desire to give the world meaning before the end comes. It is the Wind of reverence and respect for what it limited, reminding people that what they have is all the more sacred and special for the fact that it will pass one day. It is an awareness that the world persists even as everything within it does not, a view of a greater cosmic picture that understands that the loss of one's own life and the end of one's existence is not the end of all things.
It also scares the everloving hell out of people.
Shyish blows from the past, because it has already ended, and then permeates the present. It has little concern with the future; the energies of death know where that leads already. The magic is also drawn to liminal spaces. It is strongest at twilight or dawn, when one part of the day is ending and another is beginning. It is pulled close to battlefields, as it concentrates on soldiers who accept the possibility of their deaths and steel themselves against the ending that is coming. It lingers on the executioner's gibbet and the graveyard, and it blows strongest in the spring and autumn, when the world is changing how it works.
Amethyst wizards are (by fluff, they aren't that great mechanically, sadly) some of the most dangerous battle wizards in the Empire. Especially if they face the Undead. They can simply snuff out the lives of enemy soldiers, and a single touch by a Wizard Lord can kill even the mightiest hero (They get the only straight up Save or Die non-Chaos spell in the game). They are also masters of spiritual magic, able to conjure forth spirits of the recently dead and question them on various matters. They limit this conjuring to the recently dead because they have no desire to drag a spirit back from one of the realms of the dead, as Necromancers do, for fear of trapping it on this side and away from Morr's Realm. Their magic can also bring about decay and the passage of time; they have spells that will age a living target before their time and spells that will decay an unliving object to dust as if it had just experienced thousands of years of wear and tear. They can physically see the Wind slowly teasing the life out of a person as they age and grow closer to death; the most experienced Magisters see this in every single person they meet, all the time, without being able to turn it off.
The Order's power is close to Necromancy but put towards a completely different end. Necromancers exist to defy the natural ending of things. They are generally obsessed with true resurrection or true immortality, both of which are nearly impossible. Necromancy tempts young Death wizards the way Chaos tends to tempt other Colors. A young person who is suddenly, mystically aware of their impending death (and the deaths of those they care for) and given some measure of power over the forces that will bring it will obviously be tempted to tweak things a little, to buy just a little more time. This is a dangerous path that ends in tragedies like Nagash, tragedies that have plagued the world long after their makers should have gone to their appointed rest. Worse, this path pulls the user away from the true nature of Shyish; an Amethyst wizard accepts death and embraces what they have, rather than seeking more. Their measured practice also stops them from suffering the side effects a Necromancer suffers, and their proximity to the power of death helps them put a natural end to the unnatural creations of Necromancy.
The general public is terrified of Amethyst wizards. No-one likes to think about their own death, and the purple-robed, bald, pale wizards who shuffle around the graveyards of the Empire (guarding them from Necromancy, alongside the Priests of Morr) are walking reminders that all things come to an end. They are also tremendously secretive; by their very nature they don't tend to be the most social of people, and their Order encourages a measure of detachment to prevent a student from being tempted to extend their lives of their loved ones. Whereas the zero tolerance policies of the Shadowmancers have led to many dead Shadowmancers, there have only been 4 notable renegades from the Amethyst Order in the last 2 centuries. When a Death wizard goes rogue, the Order strives to end every single trace of their existence. The wizard will be killed and their remains rendered to ash, and their books, works, and researches expunged from the Order; a mind that could be tainted by darkness is not worth preserving.
The Order also strives to guard the psychological health of their brothers and sisters. Acceptance of the end of all things is healthy. Obsession is not. Amethyst wizards can fall into madness, melancholy, and all-encompassing nihilism without the support of their peers. This is more dangerous and more common than 'spiritual' forms of corruption, and the Order's exercises and internal socialization are intended to prevent it. An insane Amethyst wizard is potentially armed with the ability to kill almost anyone and make it look like a natural death by heart attack; one of them running around the Empire believing themselves the harbinger of the End would be really bad. The Grey Order's paranoid Patriarch suspects that madness is more common among the Amethyst wizards than they let on, but he has no proof. He is deeply afraid of their Order.
The only duty anyone officially hires the Amethyst wizards for is battle. The Empire tries to ignore them and to pretend they don't exist during peacetime, which is entirely fitting for an Order that represents death; most people try to put it out of mind most of the time. They find plenty of extra work from noble families that border on Sylvania, however. The Order is intent on one day destroying the persistent threat of vampirism and necromancy stemming from cursed magical eastern Europe. They are happy to lend their aid to Morrites, vampire hunters, and adventurers who battle the undead in that ruined land.
The Amethyst College is the smallest of the Colleges and they accept very few Apprentices. They only take students who feel drawn directly to their Wind, and only accept those after strict entrance examinations and strict testing to ensure they really are drawn to the magics of the End. They tell an Apprentice that joining the Order is very much like dying; they will have to cut ties with all they knew before and begin their life anew. An unsurprising number of their students are former Initiates of the Cult of Morr, people who found themselves drawn to death for reasons they couldn't explain until they started to witness the Winds of Magic. They seem to do everything they can to convince a student to find a different Wind if they feel any passion at all for any other part of life.
The College sits in a big, gothic crypt within a supposedly haunted cemetery, long since filled during the ancient Red Plague of 1111. The mausoleum's doors are always open, waiting to see if a visitor is drawn to enter the realm of Death. Adventurous street urchins report a dusty, dry, seemingly abandoned building full of shrines to Morr and a creeping sense of dread that eventually sends them running for their lives. Others report that they turned a corner and found a purple-robed Magister waiting for them, scythe in one hand, hourglass in the other, waiting to sweep them away to begin their training as an Apprentice of the Wind of Death. The College is used as a general purpose residence for Magisters, Apprentices, and unusually, Journeymen because Amethyst wizards tend to have a hard time finding understanding lodgings anywhere else.
The current Patriarch of the Order is Viggo Hexensohn, rumored to be a former Anointed Priest of Morr before he was drawn to arcane magic. He is, like most of the throwaway Patriarchs, merely a very powerful example of his Order. Quiet, bald (almost all Amethyst wizards lose all their hair over time), terrifying and wise, with an air of mystery. There's nothing that really stands out about Viggo, which is a shame, as this would have been the perfect place to have made him the Scourge of the Carpathians by having him have been involved in purges of Sylvania or something.
Next Time: EXPLOSIONS!?
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Well, this is Order everyone's familiar with. The Wind of Aqshy is the Wind of passion and excitement. It is also the Wind of blowing stuff up and conjuring massive pyrotechnics. It calls to those who are drawn to dynamism, energy, courage, and irresponsibility. Actual heat draws the Wind of Aqshy just as much as a heated argument, and so the rites of the Bright Order always involve fire in some way. There is no subtlety to Bright Magic and it is only good for combat. Bright Wizards are known first as warrior-wizards and secondly as tremendously hyperactive and argumentative people who may be so hot blooded that they are literally on fire at all times. The Bright Order was the first Order formally founded, because simple fireballs and explosions were some of the first spells Teclis taught the early human war-wizards, led by the warrior von Taurnus. No other Order is as thoroughly given over to the role of producing Battle Wizards.
Bright Wizards go about their business dressed in the customary red and orange robes of their Order, and are some of the most vulnerable to being influenced and changed by their Wind of Magic. It is very rare to find an experienced Bright Wizard who doesn't sport orange hair that turns to flame when they channel their spells, or blazing eyes of fire, or red tattoos that shift and dance like fire (they like fire a lot, okay?) as they cast. They also have a chain and lock motif, with each full Magister wearing the seven Keys of Secrets that they were awarded as they unlocked the various stages of their training. The idea is that progress through the Order represents breaking the chains on one's soul and unlocking one's passions as one learns to control them. The Bright Order places a strong emphasis on controlling and channeling the passions, and they do not generally succeed. These wizards are hot blooded and confident to the point of arrogance, prone to strong emotion and changeable passion. They love to laugh and love and argue and fight. These are the wizards who, despite the efforts of their Order, go and have a kegger and get black out drunk and wake up married and divorced in the same night or something while burning down an evil cult.
Apprentices in the Order are taught to control themselves not through strict discipline (this is attempted, it just doesn't work) but by coming to understand their own heart and their own mind. By understanding their own passions, they can shape and channel them more constructively, despite the inherently destructive nature of Aqshy. They are encouraged to put their passion towards their fellow students, to make friends and to aid one another in their studies; the drive to friendship and love of others is considered one of the most constructive passions. They are also driven to healthy, friendly competition and to push themselves to master the arts of combat. Like the Grey Order and their swordsmanship thing, there's nothing in the Bright career that makes you a better fighter, but from the sound of it (and from the fact that their founder was an Imperial Greatsword Champion before he became the first Bright Patriarch) they are encouraged to multiclass into a fighting career at some point. Too much time spent reading like a nerd wizard is frowned upon in favor of getting out there and flinging some fireballs and swinging swords at a practice dummy. Sports and physical exercise are a key part of discharging the hyperactive energy of young Bright Wizards.
The public has a very mixed view of Bright Wizards. They make dramatic figures, which the public likes, and they are often war heroes, which the public likes even more. However, they set things on fire and they have extremely quick tempers; property damage follows a Bright Wizard like overturned fruit carts follow an action hero. For every story of a mighty Battle Wizard single-handedly annihilating a platoon of orcs and saving a flank, there will be another story of the same wizard getting pissed off in a pub and throwing a fireball out a window that burns down someone's chickens. The public prefers to admire their work from a safe distance and tries to avoid pissing off the extremely volatile fire wizards.
The Bright Order loses a lot of wizards every time major wars break out, and the Storm of Chaos was no exception. Bright wizards were on the front-line of every major battle, burning through the hordes of the north and exploding devils left and right even as many of them died at the hands of their enemies. However, the Order also tends to attract more and more applicants after every major war. They are thus facing a shortage of instructors, with fewer Magisters actually in residence at their main College than any other Order except the Jade and Amber Orders. I imagine some of this is also because getting a Bright wizard to sit still and teach is something of a task
. The College itself is set in a huge tower within a burned out ruin; they burned down everything around themselves in a particularly explosive argument about 80 years back, which has not done much for the reputation of the Order. No-one will move back into the 'blast zone' around the College, and everything in the College is made of stone and iron to keep it flameproof. Like many Colleges, it is hidden behind magic, appearing to be a pile of particularly impressive rubble unless one knows there is a flaming wizard College in the area. Locals (and some young Bright wizards) will tell gullible visitors there is, in fact, no building for the Bright College and that the entire Order flies across the sky on wings of fire to drop war-wizards off in the hotzones of battle. Which would totally rule, and the Bright Order would totally do that if they could, so I see why people believe it.
Thyrus Goremann is the current Magister Patriarch of the Bright Order, and former Supreme Patriarch of Magic before his defeat by Gelt. He is, as with most of these, exactly what you expect from the Bright Patriarch: A tall, broad-shouldered man with his hair on fire who is quick to anger, quick to smile, and extremely good at blowing things up. He is an old personal friend of Karl Franz, and has remained one of his closest advisors on matters of magic even though he has been devoted in overall magical stature. Members of the Imperial Court fear the amount of influence this gives an unstable and extremely on-fire personality, but Goremann hasn't abused his friendship with the Emperor yet and likely never will.
You may note this Order has a lot less philosophy to it and a notably shorter entry overall. The Bright Order's philosophy is fairly simple: Passion can be harnessed and put towards constructive ends if it is embraced and understood. Beyond that, their other core belief is just that fire is totally sweet. Similarly, their magic and duties are just as straightforward: They run around setting evil on fire and fighting in the Empire's armies and they like it that way. They don't have much time for being subtle or complex.
Next Time: Killed with my Bear Hands.
Just imagine how you get this guy in a party
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Just imagine how you get this guy in a party
I don't like Amber wizards. They're the only Order I dislike. I feel like White is missing something, but the concept is good. Amber doesn't really know how to differentiate itself from Jade, and it does so primarily in a way that makes it much less fun to have in a PC party. The Wind of Ghur is supposedly the untamed energy of the wilds, the savage and unreasoning power of nature. When it calls to a human, it makes them intensely misanthropic and prone to spending all their time out in the woods, alone, with maybe a couple wolves and a bear. They mostly spend their time in the forest wandering around, turning into bears, and mauling Beastmen to death. An intense misanthrope who is very uncomfortable around other humans doesn't sound like much fun to have in an adventuring party, unlike the other wizards so far. Which is a shame because what they actually do sounds like a lot of fun for a PC.
It doesn't help that their magic is absolutely terribly balanced (on the weak side).
The Amber wizards live like hermits, using their magic to speak to the birds and beasts of the forests they call home. They can transform themselves into various animals and creatures, they can call on the aid of the wild places, and they can heighten their senses and enhance their own strength to superhuman levels (this is not well reflected in their spells; if it was they'd be a lot of fun to play). Whereas the Jade wizard sees the power of life in terms of nurturing and growth, the Amber wizard sees the competition and savagery of nature. To them, all beasts struggle to survive, and the world is nothing but that struggle writ large. This may explain their misanthropy even more than their alignment with the forest and away from 'civilized' spaces; if they see everything as survival of the fittest, then clearly other humans are first assessed as a threat rather than anything else. They see the world in terms of a sort of brutal animism, where their Witchsight shows them a spirit for every living thing, and all spirits are in constant conflict to thrive and produce more of themselves before they are destroyed in competition with something more powerful.
The Amber Magisters ask no money from the Empire and maintain no elaborate College building. They ask only for lands to roam and the space to perform their duty: destroying the Beastmen and anything else that would pervert the natural order of the Empire's forests. They see themselves at war with the Beastmen above all else. They battle for the soul of the Empire's forests, wanting to take the dark spaces and make them green and good again, free of the unnatural savagery of Goatman Prime and other evils. This is the good part: The reminder that the Beastmen aren't about nature, they're a weird bunch of murderous marauders who just happen to be good guerilla fighters in the woods. There is an undercurrent of much of the fluff about the huge forests of the Empire (and other lands) wherein natural magic is locked in a constant struggle to defend itself from the warped satanic imagery of the Beastmen, and that's some good stuff for dark fantasy adventuring. If they tamped back the misanthropy a little to make it a little more feasible that the Amber Order might ask Adventurers for help in their crazy secret nature war it'd be a fun campaign for a more wilderness oriented party.
Amber Magisters' only official duty to the Empire is fighting its enemies, and they do so when they wish and how they wish. Imperial armies will simply find the forest bending itself to their aid, never really knowing why. Sometimes, a party of scouts will just lose track of the Beastmen they were following only to find them all torn to shreds by bears the next morning, with only a small ritual fetish left behind to tell the Empire the Amber Order was here and discharging its duty. Amber wizards will band together into hunting parties when they find particularly powerful Chaotic forces in their chosen lands, but while they fight alongside Imperial troops, they never seek them out or coordinate their tactics; if the world of men helps, it helps, but it is not their business.
Amber Magisters do not have a College, as I said, nor do they really have a central organization. They take their apprentices from lost children in the woods, rescued woodsmen, young bandits, and others who have lived outcast from or cut off from human society. Young apprentices are taught solely by oral tradition and demonstration. There are no great stacks of tomes of Amber magic, and its practitioners would bristle at the suggestion they write any of this down. There are no fees and no student loans for Amber wizards primarily because they rarely have any money or material possessions beyond what they use to survive in the woods. Most Imperial citizens don't even know there is
an Amber Order, and just assume any they meet are lonely rangers, trappers, and hermits. The Amber Order prefers it this way.
The Patriarch of their Order is called the Wild Father, and the position is currently occupied by Setanta Lobas, a man who hates being around other people but feels a strong sense of duty towards his Empire. Apparently from an educated background (unlike most of his Order) he is sometimes called upon to write down and share his many observations into how the Beastmen operate and how they can be fought. Articulate, intelligent, and thoroughly misanthropic, he prefers to take no visitors and no students unless matters are particularly dire.
Matters became particularly dire quite recently. Since the Amber Order is a bit short, and this next section is too, I'll put them up together. The Colleges were all called to war during the Storm. Gelt and Teclis both informed all of the Magisters of the Empire that Archaon was the Lord of the End Times and that it was time to do what they'd been founded to do. Since this is in the timeline where the personality-less bastard got his ass kicked, the Colleges marched to war as one, as ordered. Every single full Magister in the Empire was mobilized in some capacity, because the day the Colleges had been created to guard against had come. Shadowmancers garroted cult magi in the dark corners of the Empire before their plots could go off. Astromancers engaged in duels of fates and curses with the machinations of Tzeentch, and came out the victors. Jade wizards battled the forces of Nurgle and saved the Empire from a hungry death. Where the Magisters of Shyish walked, the enemy simply died. The Gold Order's new formulae and compounds were tested in the field of battle against the horrors fielded by the Chaos Dwarves and their dark God Hatshut. The Light Order walked the north to cast out devils and inspire the people to hope. Amber wizards mobilized the untainted forests of the Empire and sent the wrath of nature down upon the warherds that are their ancient enemy. And Bright wizards collectively got psyched as hell and burned their way across the bloody battlefields of the Storm, showing the Empire why they keep these loveable lunatics around.
The Empire's Colleges did their duty, exactly as they were founded to do. The Magisters distinguished themselves in the war, showing the progress they'd made from a half-mad collective of hastily trained hedge-mages in the original Great War to the disciplined wizards of the modern Colleges. The Storm, and the widespread use of magic to combat it, brought with it a wave of magical awakening and sensitivity; the Magisters are returning home to find they have far more apprentices waiting to become PCs than ever before. Moreover it has raised the profile of the Colleges yet again. The Magisters hope to capitalize on their heroism, to make this the moment when magic is fully accepted as an institution of the Empire. The people of the Empire have a whole host of new reasons to fear, respect, and admire magic; it will be up to your wizard PCs to take advantage of the challenges of reconstruction, cleanup, and the all important maintenance of the image of the Colleges.
Next: Pointy Hat fears Wide Brimmed Hat
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
We start the section on Witch Hunting with a bit on the difference between a Hedge Wizard, a Witch, and a Warlock, but it's kind of redundant. We've been over all this already; Hedge Wizards are self taught and ideally will be brought in and apprenticed to a proper College. Witches are a little dicier, as they might be older and may have already started using Dark Magic without realizing they're doing so. They can be harder to fashion into proper Collegiate Magisters, though from a mechanical standpoint someone who has done the Witch career is going to blow through Apprentice Wizard and Journeyman Wizard very quickly (and will still have their old tricks from Witchcraft to fall back on) if they go legit. Warlocks aren't actually very good at magic (only getting Mag 2) but they get an actual Dark Lore, and Warlocks are very much a 'shoot on sight' sort of problem for the Empire. There's no going back once you get into Warlocking. They also usually vastly overestimate their abilities; their entry in the big career compendium (which I won't be covering because it would be insanely hard to get everything across) is full of common Warlock theories about how easily they can master the 'primitive' spirits that superstitious townsfolk mistake for religious 'demons', or how Necromancy was only forbidden because elves feared how superior humans would become if you paired the human ability to learn quickly with an elven life span (they're actually not entirely wrong on that one).
We get actual mechanics for the Witch and Warlock! Witch is an interesting sort of 2nd tier. It isn't very long and doesn't have huge stat advances, but because of how Witchcraft works (spend 200 EXP to learn any one spell from any Color or Dark Lore that is CN 15 or less, roll an extra d10 for Tzeentch's Curse on this spell until you have Arcane Language (Magic) and a Lore) you could be in Witch for awhile. Note that a Witch who becomes a Collegiate wizard later does not lose their Witchcraft tricks. A Witch who 'goes legit' is one of the only ways to have spells from multiple Lores as an Imperial Wizard, though you should probably be careful who you use those powers in front of. Still, it's a cool option if you're either in a long campaign or a campaign with an advanced start. Witches learn a mishmash of survival, medical, and practical knowledge skills in addition to the basics of magic and gaining Mag 2 over the Hedge Mage's Mag 1.
The Warlock strikes me a being intended for a mid-level wizard enemy rather than a serious PC type. It doesn't have any good routes of advancement unless you're going to become a straight Chaos Sorcerer from Tome of Corruption, and you can take Dark Lores as a Black Magister (fallen Collegiate wizard) if you wanted to go that route while having a path to Mag 3 and Mag 4 in Master Wizard and Wizard Lord even if you're an outcast. You have to promote out of Witch first to become a Warlock, but aside from an official Dark Lore and more formal magical training (which will also stabilize the ex-Witch's Witchcraft spells) it isn't much of an upgrade.
The Witch Hunters are covered in more detail in this book than they were in Tome of Corruption. The common folk of the Empire are terrified of the Hexenjaeger; if one of them is around, it means they suspect something in your village. Even if they turn out to be one of the professionals who investigates carefully and only goes for the guilty, it still means they suspect the presence of a witch, necromancer, warlock, vampire, or something awful in your community. Even the noblest Hunter is a sign that something is seriously wrong and who knows who will get caught up in the crossfire when the brace of pistols comes out? There are many kinds of Hunters, but almost all of them are grim. Their work is harsh and they are exposed to some of the most dangerous enemies in the Empire, with many falling to paranoia and beginning to see conspiracy and Chaos all around them. Some scholars theorize (from a safe distance) that the brutal madness that overtakes some Hunters may be a subtle form of Chaos corruption. After all, if it can make a man or woman slaughter the innocent in hopes of killing Chaos, it can facilitate its spread among the surviving victims as they seek vengeance.
Hunters technically have no right to investigate and deal with non-magical threats to the Empire. A Hunter who finds mundane sedition or crime may feel obligated to report it to the Watch or a local noble, but their mandate only deals with unnatural threats. Hunters are trained killers to a man (or woman); one of the requirements for being a members of their various Orders and agencies. The Hunters like to promote their own reputation, and to suggest that there is a single, centrally organized agency of Witch Hunters who all operate in unison against the forces of darkness. This isn't true, but it makes their work much easier if the people of the Empire think they can all share notes at the drop of a (wide-brimmed) hat and it helps keep people properly respectful towards the office. In truth, there are many sources for the Hunters.
Some Hunters are sanctioned, paid agents of the state, or of a local noble. Putting up the money to hire a grim-faced ex-adventurer with experience tracking and putting down Chaos cults is a good investment for a burgomeister or a baron, and these Hunters have the most clearly limited authority. They will be responsible for the area that chartered their hire, and they will have well-defined legal limits to their power to investigate and dispense justice. No-one is going to complain if the State Hunter stumbles upon a cult and has to engage in aggressive self defense, but otherwise these Hunters are bound to trial and evidence. Many of these 'mercenary' Hunters are more corruptible than their colleagues. They are often ex-adventurers and the money is one of the reasons they do the job, which means a local baron can hire one to 'find' evidence of witchery in convenient places that allow him to seize property he couldn't buy, or that removes certain political threats. They can also be bribed by their targets, though most of the time this is more innocent than you'd think; accepting gold to overlook a lost license or leave a village healer-witch alone, rather than outright ignoring obvious signs of Chaos magic or vampirism. These Hunters are also less dogmatic, and more likely to have been in the military at some point. Of all Hunters, they are the most likely to seek out a legitimate Magister and ask for assistance on a particularly dangerous case. After all, if it was good enough for Magnus the Pious, why shouldn't a sanctioned servant of the Empire seek to fight fire with fire, too?
Devout Hunters represent the common view of Witch Hunters as pious, severe men and women who kill monsters in the name of Sigmar (and sometimes other Gods). The Templars of Sigmar, particularly the Order of the Silver Hammer, dominate the popular imagination. They are the original trend-setters who made the wide-brimmed hat and long overcoat what they are in the mind of the Empire's people. These zealous crusaders will fight any Chaotic or Necromantic threat, and tend to be much more dogmatic and suspicious than the State Hunters. They also used to bully other religious cults before Magnus put a leash on these fanatics and began to calm them down. Grand Theoganist Volkmar the Grim continued Magnus' work, until his death at the hands of the forces of Chaos during the Storm. While he has returned, seemingly returned to life, his replacement is still technically Grand Theoganist. Johan Esmer, the current Grand Theoganist, is not quite so conscientious and would very much like to be able to use the Hexenjaeger as a sort of personal religious police.
Devout Hunters used to have no requirements of evidence or trial until Emperor Magnus. Now, they must show evidence and give a fair trial, but the Templars of Sigmar (and the few other Templar-Hunters of the other cults) have the right to arrest any Imperial citizen for trial on suspicions of Witchcraft and Chaos corruption. The standards of evidence can vary widely depending on the personal power and popularity of the person the Hunter accuses. In theory, Magnus' decrees limit them to a 'fair' trial, but many of the people serving on these trial juries and many of the magistrates deciding the cases know very little of Chaos, and Hunters have a reputation as experts. Also, in the Empire, a confession is still the queen of legal proofs, and many Hunters are very good at extracting confessions if they are convinced of the guilt of their target. While some Orders of Hunters carefully watch over and monitor their numbers for abuse, others have taken advantage of the chaos in the north to license and send out mobs of Witch Hunter fanatics, swelling their numbers and influence and risking going out of control. Most Devout Hunters only grudgingly accept that they cannot burn a licensed Magister, and many of them still think the Colleges are going to turn out to be a massive Chaotic trap.
The Seekers of Truth and Justice go beyond anything sanctioned by the standards of the Devout Hunters. These are the personal project of Theoganist Esmer, a way to cement his power within the Empire. Most Hunters are content to wait and see if the Colleges turn out to be servants of Chaos; they have plenty of other foes to face while they glare warily at the wizarding schools. The Seekers are not willing to wait. Esmer seems to fear the growing political influence of the Colleges might threaten the political authority of the Grand Theoganist; it seems reasonable to think he may want them leashed or gone after the recent attempt to give the Supreme Patriarch an Electoral Vote the same as the cults of Sigmar and Ulric. Thus, he has cultivated and covertly funded this group of fanatics to cause trouble. The Seekers actively try to grab Apprentices and Journeymen, torturing them to learn more about their Colleges and to force confessions of some crime that can be used to justify burning them. They appear to be designed to provoke a counter-attack by the Magisters of the Colleges, in that Esmer seems to hope that overt action by the Colleges against a Sigmarite organization that acts on the legal pretext of legitimate Witch Hunting will provoke a conflict that could be used to marginalize, or even disband, the Colleges. These guys are obviously here for your Wizard PCs to fight, oppose, and expose, because who doesn't like fighting brutal religious police who are working for an evil political climber?
On that note, there are other varieties of Renegade Hunter. Most of the Empire won't ask too many questions when they see a grim-faced warrior in a wide-brimmed hat with a brace of pistols and a small passel of assistants. There is no single central agency of Witch Hunters and only powerful burgomeisters, nobles, military officers, and watch captains will usually ask a Hunter to show them their license before letting them work. These Renegades are completely unbound by the need for trial and often use the brutal legends of the Hexenjaeger to explain why they claim such 'unlimited' authority, terrorizing towns and zealously pursuing imagined enemies. They are a grave threat to the security of the Empire and impersonating a 'real' Witch Hunter is a capital offense.
Next Time: Oh my god, this book has GAME MECHANICS!?
Game mechanics? Who the hell came here for game mechanics
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Socrery
Game mechanics? Who the hell came here for game mechanics
Would you believe all the fluff was more than half the book? Just barely, but it was. The next bits are about as dense on mechanics as the last bits were on fluff, though; we've got a lot to get through. Tons of new spells (many of which really help out the core Lores), the 'spell list' system, rules for enchanting a tiny frog or cat to be your witty sidekick, rules for building your own ill-advised magical ritual of tremendous narrative power, rules for potion-making, rules for an entire system of dwarven runic craftsmanship with attendant career line, and plenty on what makes a good Warhams magic item.
Now, with Lores, I won't be going over every single new spell in detail but I will cover some of the new standouts. Most importantly, when they added a bunch of spells to each Lore, they recognized that if a wizard automatically got all of those they'd essentially get a power boost for buying a sourcebook. As a result, they introduced the Spell List system that we saw in Tome of Corruption and Realm of the Ice Queen: You still only get 10 spells for taking your Lore talent. You get the option of taking the full core-rulebook Lore or one of two mixed core-book and new spell lore lists, labeled as Elemental (Core Book), Mystical (New Spells), and Cardinal (Mixed). Your PC can also buy individual spells they don't learn with their base list for 100 EXP each, though it mentions your GM may rule you have to find a Grimoire or a teacher to pick up new spells (which gives wizards a reason to be hunting down rare and expensive books even if you aren't using the Trappings system for class promotions). I'm glad they recognized that just giving each wizard double their old spell list for free might have messed them up a bit, but I wish there was a little more flexibility in what spells you learn and what spells you don't. For instance, taking all New Spells as a Bright Wizard would leave a Bright Wizard lacking in the ability to actually blow people up, since many of their new spells are about controlling passion and animosity rather than slinging fire. A Bright Wizard who can't explode someone is a sad Bright Wizard.
The Lore of Beasts is still a sad lore. I've gone over its weaknesses before, and it doesn't get anything that really makes up for them in its 10 new spells. They get spells like 'If someone is cruel to this animal, they take a Fellowship penalty from your curse!' or the ability to destroy leather goods. A minor Fellowship penalty is hardly the kind of curse that merits learning an entire lore of magic. They can turn into a horse now, I guess? The two useful new spells are The Ox Stands (A cheap, easy, very wide-area anti-fear spell that cancels Fear and Terror on any of your allies for CN 11) and Repugnant Transformation. Repugnant Transformation takes 2 full actions to cast, and it's a Touch spell, so you have to hit on a WS test (which can be Dodged with a -20 Dodge or Parry check) and hit CN 21, then get past a WP-10 save. If it works, it destroys a person's sentience and makes them act randomly in combat, permanently. The spell can only be reversed by a powerful success on Dispel Magic or by being cast again on the same target. This is a lot of trouble, but if it succeeds it essentially instantly defeats that target. Beasts just isn't a worthwhile Lore.
Lore of Death was underwhelming in the first book. Lore of Death is not underwhelming with the added spells. They get more spells for talking with the dead, more spells for scaring the hell out of people by invoking the fear of death, some spells for helping ease insanity and emotional pain from the death of friends and loved ones, a large AoE stun spell that lasts until each individual hit makes a WP save, the ability to temporarily destroy the use of a limb, the ability to put someone's soul in a jar (not sure why you'd do this) and maybe release them back into their body later, and the only non-Chaos instant-kill spell in the game. Life's End is a CN 31 spell (so insanely hard to cast unless you're Channeling and using the ingredient, the preserved eyeball of a beheaded murderer) but it 'only' takes a single Full Action and causes a WP vs. WP test between you and the target. If it succeeds, they are dead. It doesn't matter what they were; there's no exception for Demons or Vampires or Undead. They die. This is another of those 'every wizard within 5 miles feels you cast it' cataclysmic spells, with the note that the Order only condones its use in an emergency, but I doubt anyone is going to be busting out a CN 31 spell without pretty damn good cause. Lore of Death is way better with its new spells, especially since a Wizard Lord can do their signature 'thing', now.
Lore of Fire was already pretty effective, if one-note. Its new spells try to expand it a little, giving it spells for controlling passions and sparking animosity between opponents and rivals. The ability to make people hate each other is valuable and interesting, but it's probably best to take the mixed lore so that you can still explode people. That said, Boiling Blood is a new attack spell that requires CN 21 and a touch attack, but that causes an enemy to take a Damage 3 hit that ignores armor every round for rounds equal to your Mag. If they die, they explode in a fountain of superheated blood
that hits everyone in a 2 yard radius around them for Damage 1 via superheated blood explosion. Burning Vengeance is a CN 26 spell that induces SUCH A LUST FOR REVENGE that the character becomes a fierce rival to another character for a year and a day, without ever being able to explain why beyond 'I HATE THAT GUY'. Choleric is a lesser version (and at CN 6, easy for Journeymen!) that causes someone to become very irate with a second target the caster chooses. If you can't think of ways to use 'Inspire Blood Feud' to adventure, something is wrong with you. Oh, and they can also make food really spicey.
Lore of the Heavens was also pretty useful before hand. Now they get the ability to answer an ancient question: What are birds? Astromancers know. Specifically with the spell Birdspeak, which is a CN 10 spell that lets them understand birds. Note that 'a cunning bird may lie or ask for recompense' but the spell grants the wizard insight into 'the customs and mindset' of birds. They also get an awesome spell called Fortune's Renewal that gives a PC tomorrow's complement of Fortune Points today, fully recovering their Fortune stock for CN 13 but at the cost of the character not regenerating them naturally the next game day. Perfect for extended emergencies where you need the rerolls badly. You can only use this once until the character has recovered Fortune naturally, after. They can also cause an overcast or stormy day to clear up with Clear Sky, for CN 12, clearing a 100 yard shaft of sunlight or moonlight. Imagine the Von Carstein's surprise when their Summon Forth Thunder is replaced with a sunny day, focused precisely on the Von Carstein. They can also turn their eyes into telescopes. Heavens is pretty good and its new spells are fun.
The Lore of Life gets some much needed mid-tier combat magic. I have seen the difference the new spells make for Lore of Life, directly. Father of Thorns is an amazing combat spell, a CN 14 Full Action spell that causes a Large Template of thornbushes and grasping briars to inflict Damage 4 on anyone in the area if they try to move, plus halves their movement. A Life Wizard in one of my games used this during a massive siege with the undead to just shut down siege ladders and slaughter slow moving zombies, killing dozens of them. They also get an amazing new easy spell called Ferment, for CN 4, that turns 'liquid enough to sustain 12 people for a day' into drinkable, clean water or any sort of mildly alcoholic beverage you wish, which remains this way for 24 hours. So a Life Wizard can take swamp water and turn it into small beer, or mead, or a diluted but decent wine, cleaning it of all diseases and parasites in the process. They can cause seeds to grow into full trees with Vital Growth, a CN 15 spell that can make a full oak tree in an hour. My same player used this to erode part of a mountaintop and essentially throw the top of a mountain at a dark lord's army. They gain the ability to talk to trees and speak to the land, or ask the land to hide them. They can summon falling leaves to give them concealment from gunfire. They can turn themselves to stone and grant massive strength and toughness in return for their speed. Life Wizards got so much good stuff in this book that it's like a new Lore.
The Lore of Light was also already quite good. Now it gains access to more healing magic, the ability to enchant weapons to fuck up demons, more shields of protection, the ability to purify food and water (though they can't turn it into booze, point to the Life Wizard), and the ability to summon forth a beam of pure demon-stunning power. The healing magic is very useful; it ranges from being able to cure penalties to mental stats with Clarity (CN 7), to being able to cancel out poison and treat (but not cure, it only reduces the duration by 1/2) disease with Ill-Bane (CN 16, but affects characters up to your Mag), to a total full heal that restores a person to their ideal state with Boon of Hysh at CN 27. Instantly cures all wounds, diseases, poisons, and stat penalties. Not sure if it will heal, say, a lost limb, but I don't see why not. Radiant Weapon (CN 9) lets them make a melee weapon count as Magical and do +2 damage against demons (and if you remember, demons generally get +2 TB against any non-magical weapon, so this is effectively +4 damage) for minutes equal to their Mag. Radiant Sentinel (CN 14) summons an orb of light that defends the wizard, parrying one attack per turn using their WP that doesn't count against their dodge/parry limits. Light is a very powerful lore, mechanically.
The Lore of Metal was also already really good. It gains the ability to either strengthen or weaken inanimate materials with Law of Age and Law of Form, it can learn about the history of a crafted item (and its functions) with Tale of Metal, it can create magical blast furnaces for forging and alchemy with Stoke the Forge (and at only CN 4!), it can actually cast identify like a D&D character at CN 22 with Breach the Unknown, discovering the magical properties of a material or item, and it generally gains more ways to learn more about materials and mess around with what they can do. Lore of Metal was a very powerful Lore to begin with, and I don't feel the new spells really change its character much. It doesn't have many exciting new ones, but it didn't need them since it was already great. The new abilities to do more science and crafting stuff with it are certainly welcome. It can also manipulate perception of value with Fool's Gold (CN 17), making an object appear ten times as vaulable (using this for simple fraud is highly frowned upon by the Gold Order). Metal's new magic is a little underwhelming but it isn't such a big deal when the core Lore was so solid.
Shadow Magic was also already pretty good at what it does (though it is one of the Lores that would benefit the most from multiclassing into an actual Stealth class like Thief). They get some actual combat magic besides their inexplicably hard to use and powerful Shadow Knives from the base Lore: They can magically strangle someone, slowly ramping up damage after someone fails a Toughness save vs. force choke with Throttling (CN 13). They can hit everyone who is currently in 'shadow' for Damage 3 with Burning Shadows (CN 14). They learn how to cast spells that make people ignore and overlook them, they can erase themselves from a person's mind and memory
with Mindhole for only CN 8 and an Opposed WP test (something a Shadow Wizard used to trick a Champion of Tzeentch into forgetting he existed, letting him spark a Chaos civil war during an adventure in one of my games), and generally they get better at fucking with perception and changing how people see them. They can even make someone convincingly dead for a couple days before reviving them, which if you combine it with Mindhole can effectively let you fake someone's death. They can also summon a rad shadow horse that makes no noise, hides itself at +30, and never gets tired, but when the spell wears off it rounds a corner and then is gone as if it was never there (CN 11, lasts until you get off or until dawn on the next day). Wizard Spies are fun.
We also get a few new Rituals, but Rituals in general aren't very interesting because they're more a plot point than anything. A spell that makes people dance until they die, a terrible 'start plague' ritual for Nurglites, a spell that lets Gold Wizards slowly cybernetically enhance themselves into a golden robot man with tremendous bonuses as long as they can find enough gold, that sort of thing. Okay, I lied, the Gilding is pretty awesome. If a Gold Wizard succeeds on multiple Gilding rituals they can come out of it with +2 Movement, +10% Str, +10% to tests involving manual dexterity, +10% to sense tests, AV 2 on all locations that won't hurt their spellcasting, etc. But they have to gild each body part separately, and any failed ritual castings (CN 22) will cause terrible, permanent penalties (and Insanity, if you're using it) instead. There's also a ritual to let a unit of troops reach any place they could reach in the Old World on foot by traveling for a single night. So you could walk all the way to Norsca from the Empire in one casting of this spell. If it fails you end up someplace random, instead.
Next: Making up Rituals, hoping you don't explode
Complicated rituals for making complicated rituals
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Complicated rituals for making complicated rituals
Rituals have always been a bit of an afterthought in Warhammer Fantasy. They've almost never shown up for use by PCs in any of the games I've played in or run, because Rituals require huge numbers of exotic ingredients, often need multiple casters, take 300-400 extra EXP to learn for what is likely to be a one-shot plot device spell, and usually do something really horrible if you fail the roll at the end of the process. Similarly, if your opponents are working on a grand ritual to summon a terrible demon or accomplish some evil end, you're not likely to need the actual casting number. You're likely to want to know how PCs can disrupt that ritual and what happens if they don't stop it. Would you have a satisfying adventure if you raced to stop the dark Cult Magus from completing his spell of ultimate devil summoning, didn't quite get there in time, and then he failed his casting roll, couldn't summon the demon at all, and died on the spot? Would that be a fun conclusion? Rituals are a place where the game could have done with less mechanical backing and more of a pure focus on constructing an adventure around the Ritual.
That aside, there's a very robust and handwavey subsystem for building these big 'narrative' spells. Like Rituals themselves, it takes a great deal of resources, time, and is very likely to kill or damage the person doing the research, giving players little incentive to actually engage with it. We get a little thing on why you'd use Rituals: They're the magic that moves and creates entire plot arcs. These are the spells that curse an entire bloodline to infertility, open a portal to the Realm of Chaos, return a vampire to life after ages as a pile of ash, or banish some ancient curse. To its credit, the book is clear that Rituals are primarily plot devices. It recommends using the Ritual system to give players overarching objectives to strive for; break the ancient curse, find a way to cleanse an artifact, discover a way to actually destroy (rather than just banish) a demonic adversary, that sort of thing. They shouldn't be 'just' a big attack spell or a permanent character buff.
The problem with this is that it's at odds with wanting to have a system for players to design their own Rituals. If a Ritual is entirely a plot device, and usually has a fairly limited plot application as such, then much of what's to come is kind of irrelevant. What will the Ritual do? It'll do the thing the plot required the players to find a Ritual for. No need to have a big research subsystem for a plot device. A few simple randomly generated complications would do. Similarly, the role of Rituals as plot devices makes the 200-400 EXP cost necessary to learn any Ritual feel like a plot tax on a player. That's 2-4 sessions' EXP. That's enough to buy +10-+20% in a stat, or 2-4 Talents or Skills. 400 EXP is almost half of what it takes for a character to finish their first Career. Those are not insignificant costs.
Now, let's get to actually making Rituals. First, the player writes up their ideal end-result. They pick which Arcane Language the spell requires, they describe what the spell will do, they describe what will happen if the spell fails, they describe what sorts of ingredients and components the spell should take, and they come up with some conditions (like only casting the spell in a land brimming with Dark Magic or only being able to use it on a full moon). Both GM and player secretly write down their individual estimation of what the Casting Number, EXP Cost, and Magic requirement of the Ritual will be. Many of the consequences of failures in research will be based on how far apart the GM and Player are on how difficult the Ritual should be. This is a bad idea. Secret estimate stuff is never actually fun to play with compared to having a system to encourage conversation about how mechanically difficult your big magic hand-wave is going to be. Also note the Player can't invent a Ritual they can't cast, so if the GM's estimate of the required Magic is higher than the PC's current Mag, the Ritual can't be developed.
You now spend a month of game-time doing research, to develop your first draft of your Ritual. This happens before the GM reveals their estimation of the difficulty of the spell. Once your first draft is complete, the GM's bid on difficulty is revealed, and the Ritual will continue forward using whichever estimate was higher. So if you thought your spell should have a CN of 22, and they thought it should have 31, it will have a 31. Conversely, if you bet it would be a 25, and they thought it would be a 20, it ends up 25. This encourages the player to try to low-ball things and again, this guessing game stuff is a bad idea. You next roll a d10 to see how many months will pass in the next Research Period and this is already probably going to ensure very few groups use these rules, because stopping the plot for months so the Wizard can look up rites is very awkward. You have a 1-4 month period based on the roll, with a 10 on the d10 indicating a 1-5 month period (roll d10/2) AND a -20% Int check or else a d10 roll on the Ritual Fuckups table. This table can grant insanity, slow down work, blow the wizard up, cause heavy Miscast results, or on a 10, kill the wizard. So, 1% chance or so (minus your Int save, mind, so less than 1%) every research period that this straight kills you.
If nothing goes wrong, at the end of your research period, you apply a ton of modifiers to a d100 roll based on how differently you guessed things from your GM. -20% to your roll for every point of required Mag you missed the guess by, -3% for every point of CN, -1% for every hour of casting time you were off by, and -5% for every 100 points of EXP you guessed wrong by. These penalties only apply on the first research period. You also get -10% if the GM thinks the Consequences of failing your Ritual aren't dangerous enough. You get +5% if the Consequences would kill the caster, +3% for each thematically linked Ingredient and element of the Consequences used in the Ritual (so, say you have a spell that breaks a curse, having a Consequence where you transfer the curse to yourself would get you this +3%), +3% if you have +10 or +20 in the Arcane Language you're using, +3% for having Dark Magic, Aethyric Attunement, Luck, or a Dark Lore, and +1% for each rank you have in Magical Sense and Knowledge (Magic). That's a lot of fiddly modifiers, isn't it? This is important because they modify a flat d100 roll. And if you roll less than 5 on that d100 your Ritual is impossible, your research dead-ends, and all your time was wasted. Most of these results will add new Consequences, make you find more Ingredients, make the spell harder, etc, but if you roll over a 71% all the results up there are positive: They decrease casting number, required Mag, EXP cost, etc. At 91%+, nothing changes and your Ritual is on track.
At the end of the research period, you must try to cast the Ritual. If you fail, you suffer the full Consequences of the Ritual. This is bad. If you succeed, however, there is a table to roll on to see if the Ritual is now stable. There is only a 20% chance that you're done! There's a 15% chance that fuck you, the Ritual fails and you suffer Consequences AND take a penalty to your next research roll, too! The in-between effects are all either 'go back and do another Research check' or 'Go do one but with a +10 or +30 because you're 'close'', but only a 20% chance that, after taking a big risk and trying to cast a big spell that might kill or permanently damage you if you fail you actually finish this bullshit process? No! Bad! Especially when these things are just goddamn plot devices! You also take further research penalties if you try to participate in plots or adventures while you're working.
I went through all of this process in detail to illustrate this as an example of something you see in a lot of RPGs: The complex subsystem with lots of thought put into it that no-one will ever use. They expended a fair number of pages and a lot of effort producing this elaborate subsystem for designing big plot device spells, but it doesn't serve the actual role of a Ritual in the game and it's mostly a large table of how to punish a player for trying to engage with it. This ensures very few GMs or players are ever going to use this material. Something to remember is this was one of the first big sourcebooks for this line; this is a far cry from 'roll to see if your baby horsebird causes an adventure!' style long-term endeavors in the later books. A Ritual system that focused on causing adventures rather than rolling tons of dice and slapping the players for playing with it would have been so much better, but as it stands this entire section is a waste of the book's page space.
Next Time: The Marks of Magic
The Marks of Magic
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
The Marks of Magic
Arcane Marks are emphasized as a purely optional rule, but they're a really cool addition to the game. You might remember them from the Kislev book with the Witch Marks that Hags and Ice Witches got. The Marks in Realms of Sorcery are a cool idea (magic permanently shaping your character in odd ways, both positive and negative) but they're very uneven, mechanically. Some forms of magic have some pretty great positive marks, some have crippling negatives, and the marks aren't balanced with one another. Similarly, later Arcane/Divine Mark rules will have a much more even mixture of positive and negative marks.
Now, you could take this as Arcane Magic being more dangerous to the user, but I instead take this as this being one of the earlier books in the line. If you follow the chronology of Warhammer Fantasy 2e, the books start out more hostile to players and more likely to include lots of permanent drawbacks, emphasis on the insanity rules, save-or-dies (in the Chaos book, which came right after Realms of Sorcery) and other 'harsh' measures. Just look at the rules for creating Rituals and how they 'logically' include punishments for players who have adventures compared to characters who just spend months working on their spell and compare that to the mount-raising rules in Knights of the Grail where setbacks are
adventures and the book emphasizes that you should be introducing them for fun rather than as punishments. The tone of the line softened over time and became more accepting of having adventures and more willing to empower player characters. I suspect the relatively negative balancing of the original Arcane Marks is a symptom of Realms of Sorcery being one of the first expansion books for the line, rather than an intentional reflection of the nature of Arcane Magic.
You have a 10% chance to get an Arcane Mark if you roll doubles on the effect roll for a miscast. So, say I roll 11 for the d100 miscast table, my character would have a 10% chance to risk a mark. You then check WP to see if you gain a mark or not. Because my players liked marks as a character thing, we threw this system out (since it's very unlikely to actually leave PCs marked) and instead linked it to gaining points of the Magic stat. But that's houseruling; by design you weren't meant to gain very many Arcane Marks. If you get a mark, you roll d100 (though you might as well just roll d10, since the chance of each of the 10 possible marks is exactly 10% each for each Wind) and gain a mark based on your Wind of Magic.
Amber Marks are:
Aloof: Amber misanthropy gets worse and you have a hard time dealing with people, taking -5 Fel.
Restless: You can't sit still and hate being in enclosed spaces. RP only.
Dirty: You can never truly clean yourself up and always seem wild and unkempt. RP only.
Hairy: Your hair grows quickly and resists attempts to shave or keep it cut short. RP only.
Feral: You grow sharp teeth and have the eyes of a wolf or cat. -5% to social tests with non-wizards.
Aura of Savagery: You remind animals of their wild nature. Any tests to handle animals within 12 yards of you take -10%. Which seems like it really sucks for the class that's supposed to be a beastmaster.
Musk: You always smell of the wilds. You take -10% to tests to interact with city folk like Priests and Nobles.
Brutish: You lose your civilized ways, taking -5% to Fel or Int, player's choice.
Small Friends: Like a Disney princess, you are constantly surrounded by squirrels, birds, and other adorable little animals. Unfortunately, they like to shit all over the place or steal someone's croissant at the worst moment, giving you -5% Fel.
And at 91-100, every single Wind has Mark of the Wind, where the symbol/rune of your Wind of Magic appears on your body as a tattoo and you gain +10% to Channeling with your Lore.
Note that every single one of the Amber Marks is either neutral or negative? That isn't the case for all of them. As if Amber didn't have enough problems.
Amethyst Marks are:
Pallor: You become pale and your eyes permanently appear jaundiced. RP Only.
Clammy Skin: Your body is always cold to the touch. You may be mistaken for a vampire and you seem dead when you sleep. RP Only.
Dead Eyes: While you can see fine, your eyes become clouded and look like the eyes of a dead man. RP Only.
Grave Stench: You constantly smell of fresh soil, formaldehyde, and grave rot. -5% to tests to deal with animals. Not sure why this doesn't affect people.
Aura of Death: Within 4 yards of you, plants start to wither and die. If you use wooden equipment, it counts as 1 step worse in craftsmanship as the wood warps in your presence.
Skull-Like Visage: Your skin draws tight and your face resembles a laughing skull. -5 Fellowship, obviously.
Skeletal Frame: Your flesh withers and you grow thin, taking -5% to Strength or Toughness, GM's choice.
Voice of the Dead: While you can still raise your voice just fine to be heard, you sound like you're whispering harshly to everyone who hears you, as if your voice was coming from far away. -5 to Fellowship, extra -5 to deal with animals.
Haunted: You see the dead everywhere you look, suffering -10% on Perception tests.
And then the Mark of Shyish for 10% Channeling.
Once again, almost all negative. To contrast, Priests of Morr get similar Marks when we get to Tome of Salvation, but they can also get things like the Fearless Talent because they have already accepted death. The original Marks seem to emphasize the negative elements of the Winds over the positive.
Bright Marks are:
Temper: Oh, come on, you probably already had this for signing up to the Bright Order. You tend to lose your cool when provoked. RP Only.
Hyperactive: You fidget constantly and can't sit still. RP Only.
Red Hair: Your hair turns a fiery red. RP Only.
Face Tattoos: Your face becomes covered in bright tattoos that glow and move as you cast spells, which looks cool as hell but gives -10% to Fel with non-mages.
Flaming Eyes: Your eyes smolder with power, with your pupils replaced by dancing flame. -5 to tests with animals for some reason.
Hot Skin: You always seem feverish and overheated and tend to be flushed and red-faced. RP Only.
Vulnerable to Cold: You hate the cold. In cold and wet weather, take -5% to WS and BS.
Aura of Brimstone: You always smell of fire and brimstone, taking -10% to tests to smell anything else and giving the same penalty to anyone close to you.
Raging Temper: You're considered a short-tempered asshole by other Bright Wizards
. Gain 1 Insanity Point and a permanent -5% to base Fellowship.
Mark of Aqshy for 10% to Channeling.
Again, almost all negative. Some of these will be positive later, I swear.
Celestial Marks are:
Zephyr: Little breezes follow you everywhere, sometimes making your hair or robes rustle dramatically, sometimes blowing your papers around and messing with your workplace. RP Only.
Feather Light: The 'shackles of gravity' are loosened by the magic of the heavens. You weigh 10% less than you should.
White Hair: Your hair turns white and dyes will not hold. RP Only.
Blue Eyes: Your entire eye turns solid blue, and your eyes glow in areas of low light. -5% to Fel with non-mages.
Disturbing Visions: You're constantly distracted by snippets of the future, taking -5% to Perception tests.
Scentless: You lose your scent, entirely. No smell holds. You always smell like fresh, clean air. This is unnatural and gives -5% to Fel with humans, -10% with animals, but gives anything trying to track you by scent -20%.
Alarming Visions: Whenever you suffer a miscast, you also need to make a WP-10 roll or be stunned for 1 round as you accidentally glimpse Chaotic visions of what it wants to do with the future, since you're sensitive to prophecy.
Aura of Tranquility: You emit an aura of calm and relaxation that causes anyone, friend or foe, withing 4 yards of you to suffer -5% on attack rolls.
Stargazer: Your connection to the sky is absolute, and you need to spend at least 30 minutes studying the stars every day or suffer a cumulative -10% to Academic Knowledge and WP tests for each day you've failed, until you study the sky again.
Mark of Azyr: +10% Channeling.
Some of these at least have little bonuses baked in; enemies getting -5% to melee you is helpful.
Jade Marks are:
Plant Growth: Some sort of plant is growing on your body. Fungus on the skin, ivy in the hair, etc. If removed, it grows back the next day, or a new plant takes its place. RP Only.
Barefoot: You can't abide wearing boots or shoes, and suffer -5% to agility if you do. No penalty or risk for going barefoot, though.
Rapid Hair and Nail Growth: What it says on the tin. You're too alive and need to shave, trim, and tend to these every day to keep them under control.
Green Skin: Your skin starts to take a greenish hue, making you look like a plant person. -5% to Fellowship and people might assume you're a Mutant.
Vulnerable to Fire: Fire attacks do +1 damage to you as you burn like fine timber.
Great Constitution: You gain the Resistance to Disease Talent. I think this is our first unalloyed positive! Hurray!
Metal Revulsion: You hate the touch of iron and steel. If you use a metal object, you must make a WP-10 test or suffer -1 to your Mag for 24 hours. This does not count being struck with a metal weapon by an enemy.
Aura of Growth: You cause plants to bloom and thrive withing 4 yards of you. This makes the space within 4 yards of you count as hampering terrain and cost twice as much to move through in natural environments, but you can move in it fine.
Bound to the Seasons: In spring, you gain +1 Max Wounds. In Summer, +2 Max Wounds, +1 Movement. In Fall, -1 Max Wounds. In Winter, -2 Max Wounds, -1 Movement.
Mark of Ghyran: You gain +10% to Channeling.
Look! Finally, some good things in with all the penalties.
Hierophant (Light Wizard) Marks are:
Choral Voice: Your voice becomes infused with the harmony of your Wind. When you sing, you can emulate an entire chorus. RP only.
Eureka!: You inspire flashes of insight and help people remember random things when they're in your presence. This has no mechanical effect, but tends to make people a little distractable.
Pale: You lose pigmentation in your skin and become closer to an albino. RP Only.
Eerie Eyes: Your eyes either become blank white or take on a golden glow, giving -5% to Fel with non-mages.
Arrogant: You believe you are the most enlightened of all, suffering a permanent -5% to base Fellowship.
Paranoid: You have learned so much about the Realm of Chaos that you see its workings everywhere, even where there's no Chaos happening. Your nervous nature gives you -5% on all Fear tests.
Vulnerable to Darkness: If in a dark area, you suffer -10% on Channeling.
Aura of Light: You make every light source around you glow brighter. A single candle has the brightness of a torch, etc. ANY character exposed to light sources within 4 yards of you suffers -20% to Concealment tests.
Luminescent: You actually glow, yourself, giving off light equal to a torch and giving yourself -20% Concealment.
Mark of Hysh: +10% Channeling.
Mostly harmless drawbacks, and the aura of light actually makes it really hard to sneak up on them.
Gold Marks are:
Quicksilver Tears: Your tears and sweat look and act like mercury, except they're non-toxic. RP Only.
Leaden Tongue: Your voice takes on a harsh, mechanical tone. If you try to sing, it sounds like a machine breaking down. RP Only.
Golden Skin: Your skin thickens and takes on a golden sheen. RP only.
Stiff Limbs: You have a hard time moving around and suffer arthritis, and let me tell you, this sucks to live with. -5% to Agility base stat.
Magic Conductor: You conduct magic like metal conducts electricity. Anyone within 4 yards of you takes -10% to resist spells (including you).
Aura of Magnetism: Metal is lightly attracted to you. Anyone attacking you with a metal weapon gets +5% to hit. Anyone trying to attack someone who ISN'T you but is within 4 yards of you gets -5%, as the sword tries to veer off and hit you.
Mechanical: Animals see you as a machine and no longer acknowledge you as alive. No animal (including monsters!) will attack you unless you attack first.
Greater Golden Skin: Your skin genuinely begins to turn to gold. You take a massive -20% to Agility and -1 to Movement (!!) but gain a useless token +1 to Armor that won't stack with other light armor, only medium and heavy. Ow. Fucking ow.
Slow: You can't move quickly and take a -2 to Movement (!). It is possible to be completely crippled by this and Greater Golden Skin.
Mark of Chamon: +10% Channeling.
I have no idea what they were thinking with those insane penalty marks. They hurt as bad as losing a leg.
Shadow Marks are:
Flicker: Candles and lights flicker in your presence, making the shadows dance. RP Only.
Trickster: You become something of a compulsive liar, to the point that people start to realize they shouldn't trust you. -5% to base Fellowship.
Mantle of Mists: You draw smoke and mist to yourself, giving you +5% to Intimidate when in misty areas.
Aspect of Ulgu: You grow lighter and thinner, and your hair turns grey.
Forgettable: Unless you remind them, people tend to let you slip their minds. People need an Intelligence test to remember you without prompting after meeting you.
Disturbing Eyes: Your eyes swirl with darkness and shadow. Somehow this gives +5% to Intimidate instead of a Fel penalty.
Insubstantial: You grow shadowy and less, taking -5% to Toughness permanently but gaining +10% to Concealment.
Unnatural Shadow: Your shadow likes to run off and play tricks, giving you -10% to Fel with non-mages and likely convincing more superstitious people you're host to a Demon.
Shrouded: You draw shadow to yourself, gaining a permanent +10% bonus to Concealment.
Mark of Ulgu: +10 to Channeling.
Not sure why, but Shadow has the most positive marks of any of the magic schools. Nothing crippling and many of the marks will help a Shadow Wizard do their job.
Marks are a cool idea that will be handled better when they're more willing to make them a mixed blessing in later books. Divine Marks can be extremely awesome, and the Witch Marks from Kislev were really neat. I just wish they'd been a little more player friendly in their first incarnation rather than being a massive bunch of minor penalties.
Next Time: Familiars!
Much safer than Chaos Familiars
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Much safer than Chaos Familiars
Now, Familiars function very similarly to how they did in the Tome of Corruption, except they're safer and saner for normal wizards. Having a familiar is very helpful; they give some excellent bonuses for wizbiz and potentially provide a colorful little sidekick for your PC. This book only covers Binding and Creating a Familiar, while Tome of Corruption covered Summoning one.
Creating a Familiar means you take unliving material and animate it into a living being, creating a haemonculus to be your little (or maybe not so little, depending on the charts) buddy. Light, Death, Metal, Fire, and Shadow wizards have the option of Creating a familiar, as do Dark wizards who practice Chaos magic or Necromancy. They also require a Mag of 3, so Creation is limited to Master Wizards and experienced Chaos sorcerers or necromancers. Depending on your magical style and the specific rituals you're trying to undertake, you will then need to assemble your clay, dead flesh, blood, mud, or vital organs in order to shape your Familiar. Finding these components and preparing them can take d10 weeks. It will also cost d10x100 gold crowns. Once again, this book is way more okay with the idea that play will stop for months so characters can make magic items or invent rituals, so you'd best hope your GM is going to factor in some downtime for you to make your little abomination against Sigmar and virtue. You then need another d10 weeks to put the pieces together, without interruption or adventure (ugh). At the end, you must make an Int-20 test or all the time is wasted and the Familiar doesn't work; you must spend another d10 weeks working immediately or waste your components. I doubt many groups actually use this sort of precise timekeeping and that most say 'Okay, it'll take you The Downtime Between These Plot Arcs, roll Int to see if you get your cool weird thing'.
Once you're finished, you roll on a table to see what form the familiar takes. It can be a tiny humanoid, a dwarf-sized humanoid, a man-sized humanoid, an animal-like creature, a small version of an animal, a big version of an animal, a weird chimera, or the player's choice (or GM's choice) depending on how you roll. Created familiars also have an Oddity of Form, like wings, or a tail where they shouldn't have a tail, or extra eyes. They're weird and people are going to think you're weird for having an artificially created servant who follows you around and does wizard stuff for you. They also roll their stats: Base 10+2d10 WS, 10+d10 BS, 10+4d10 S and T, 10+d10 Agi, 5+3d10 Int, 5+3d10 WP, and only d10 Fel with 6-10 Wounds, 1 Attack, and 1+d5 Movement. The Familiar advance scheme can also get them +1 Attacks, +10 WS, +10 S, +20 T, +50 Int and WP (!) and up to +35% Fel. Familiars gain 1 EXP for every 2 their master gains, so if you keep your Familiar alive the Created (or Bound, Bound familiars have the same Advance table) Familiar can eventually become a really handy bodyguard and fellow thinker. They can also learn to read!
Bound Familiars are generally easier to get and require you to have the Witchcraft talent or to be a Light, Shadow, Fire, Heavens, Beast, or Life mage. It also only requires Mag 2. You either need to spend d10 weeks looking for an appropriate animal or spend up to 500 gc to simply buy one outright. Next, you must spend d5 weeks playing with, training, petting, and spending time with your new pet to get to know one another and bond with one another. Finally, you need a Fel-10 and then an Int-10 test in succession for the petting and playtimes to take and awaken your Familiar to a magical bond with you. If you fail either, you must return to petting your would-be Familiar immediately. If you searched up a Bound familiar candidate, you roll on a table to see what kind of animal you captured. As the animals possible include wolves, warhorses, bears, and wardogs, and you still get those Familiar advances from above, your Familiar could turn into a heck of a useful buddy as well as a magical assistant and friend. It's an open question if it's better to have a big badass wolf or something small you can keep in your pocket like a cute pet rat with a little wizard hat.
Your familiar wasn't sentient until you began mucking around and made it so, and so how it reacts to you is randomized; your new magic sparrow may be accommodating or diffident. You roll a d10 and compare to a chart with results ranging from 'adoration' (a 1, the critter loves you to an embarrassing degree) to friendship (2-3, likes you and wants to help), to a servant (4-5, your familiar is happy to help but expects regular treats and 'payments'), to distant (6, prefers to be alone), to aloof (7, hates you and tries to avoid you) to at odds (8, actively works against you but doesn't try to get you killed since that kills the Familiar), with a 9 being player's choice and a 10 being GM's choice. When you roll, you also roll a Fel test. For each DoS on that Fel test you can alter the result of the personality roll 1 point (so, say you get 2 DoS and rolled a 2, you could have an Adoring, Friendly, or Servile Familiar at your choice, since you could alter the dice roll 2 points in either direction). The player generally plays and talks for the Familiar, unless the GM rules something important is coming up and overrides them to take control of the Familiar. The wizard can always make an opposed WP test to force the Familiar into line, but this will probably damage their relationship and the book recommends gentler persuasion when possible. You also have a big table of personality quirks to roll on if you want it, though this isn't required like the basic disposition.
The Familiar Abilities are actually the same as Tome of Corruption; your Familiar starts with 1 and can spend 300 of its EXP OR yours to roll for another one. Given these can do things like give you a permanent +1 Mag while your Familiar is alive, or help you dampen miscasts or make you both smarter via a mind-link, these abilities are very powerful and very much the main reason you'd go to the trouble of making or binding a Familiar.
The difficulty of Familiars is that they mark you as a wizard. They're weird and people might think they're demons. Wizards can also grow obsessed with their awesome pet/creation, having to make a Fel+20 save every time the Familiar levels up or becoming obsessed with and increasingly attached to their little buddy such that people can easily use their pet as leverage against them. Your Familiar can also be used by a hostile wizard to boost their spells against you, at the cost of doing great harm to your Familiar, which is distressing in many ways. Similarly, if your Familiar dies, a part of the wizard is wounded and they suffer serious penalties until they can properly mourn their pet.
Familiars are fun. They're useful, but don't detract too much from the rest of the game, I just wish they didn't take so damned long to make. It would be much easier to measure the time to create your Familiar in adventures or plot threads rather than game-weeks, but WHFRP comes from a time when measuring game time in actual in-setting time was still the norm and more narrative resolutions like 'it takes you the downtime between these two major plot chapters' weren't generally part of a game's design. Who doesn't want a cute little messed up cat-bird thing created by melding a potoo bird and a pallas cat to follow them around, warking boldly and getting into trouble while boosting their magic? Boring people, that's who.
Next Time: Potions and Alchemy!
Obligatory Snape Reference
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Obligatory Snape Reference
Let's talk a little about one of the general flaws of this book's mechanics before we get into yet another example of it. I keep saying this is one of the earliest sourcebooks for WHFRP2e for a reason, and that reason is that this stuff improves in the later books, but have you noticed that there's a tendency for everything to be too involved in this book's mechanical bits? Huge tables and charts, massive amounts of randomness, and lots of 'well this takes months of working on it without having adventures' subsystems? Some of it is justifiable; having imperfect say over the personality of your Familiar is potentially fun. Some of it is not; having only a 20% chance to actually finish designing an expensive plot device with Rituals is bullshit.
Well, you haven't seen anything yet because here come potions. We're going full 'spoilage by time' tables, 'environment for ingredients', variable costs, lag time to let the potion process between being consumed and actually kicking in, some weird overtones with 3 of the potions and their implications about sexism (something you'll also notice was more of a problem earlier and got better around Bretonnia and Kislev, though it's more of a subtle rather than a pervasive sort), and the need to have and maintain a full wizard lab.
Potions can and will go bad. Much of the rules about potions revolve around when they go bad, and how they go bad. A potion has a name, a description, what it's supposed to do (if it hasn't gone bad), how long it takes to take effect, how long it lasts, how dangerous it is if it's spoiled, how much it costs if you can't find the ingredients yourself on adventure, where to adventure to find the ingredients, how hard the ingredients are to use, how hard the potion is to make and how long the potion takes to make. Like every magical crafting rule in this book, you have to spend roughly 6 hours a day on your potion batch with no breaks and many of the useful potions take a month to make. The spoilage table is based on how long it's been since the potion was made (with potions starting to spoil after a single season, so you really can't stock up on the things) and how many DoS the creator got when making the thing. The table is punishing; the rules blurbs seem under the mistaken impression that having a high chance a potion poisons you, kills you, makes you extremely sick, or causes minor mutations is 'fun'. Lots of old-school 'the GM should keep the status of the potion secret from the player until they announce they're fucked' nonsense.
This all contributes to no-one using these rules in any game I've played in. If you're already going to make a player go on an adventure to gather ingredients (or pay huge sums of money) and spend ages making the damn thing, having it be a gotcha 'oh no it was poison all along!' is just a pointless dick move. This is what I mean when I say the line softens on this sort of dickery later on. But you remember how many save or dies or 'you get fucked just for engaging with this mechanic' mechanics there were in Tome of Corruption, too? The early stuff was a lot more hostile. These kinds of mechanics don't provide risk and reward to players like designers think they will, they just make players refuse to bother with them.
Remember how I mentioned some of these potions are weird? Boar's Musk is our first potion, and it's a trap potion that gives the drinker -20% Fel for d10 hours and makes them smell like a wild boar, giving -5% to WS and BS for anyone close to them from the distraction. The notes say 'This is often used by women against their rivals' which really didn't need to be in there. So if you want to spend 50 crowns and 2 days in your 80-1000 crown laboratory making this, go right ahead. For 2 months of effort and 300 GC, you can make a Channelpath Potion that will give +15% to Channeling tests for d10 Minutes! That sounds worth it, no? Trust me, some of these are quite powerful but the power level is very uneven. Debauch's Friend is a week long effort and 50 GC for the ultimate hangover cure, which might be useful in fluff but given the effort to make it and the rarity of magic I doubt you can just buy the stuff over the counter. Draught of Lizard Limbs is our first potion that's worth making, mechanically. It takes a month of effort, you'd have to go to Lustria or pay 500 GC for the ingredients, it's hard to make, but it will restore a lost limb. Great, right? Except you roll 50-50 to see if it's the correct limb or if you need to hack the new limb off and try again so someone doesn't have a leg growing out of their shoulder. Hilarious fun for players who go through all that shit to undo a critical hit effect, no? Fuck these kinds of rules.
The Potency Draught is insanely useful and actually worth what you have to do to get it. 250 GC or a fairly easy gathering check in a temperate forest, so I don't see why anyone would pay for this. Takes 1 month to make it, but when you drink it you get +15% Toughness and Strength for d10 whole hours. No drawbacks. If you want your Grail Knight of the Ideal or Demon Slayer buddy to be able to armwrestle a Bloodthirster, this'll do it. God's Spit is another minor buffing potion, much easier to make (1 week and 100 GC, or a moderately difficulty gathering check in any land in the world) that's rubbed on the hands to make them count as Gauntlets (SB-3 Pummeling no doubling AV, unlike SB-4 bare hands) and grant +5 to Agility and Toughness for d10 Minutes. Kind of neat for surprising someone in a fistfight. Hair Tonic just cures baldness for 75 GC and a week's effort. Lucidity Tonic will keep you awake for 3d10 hours and grant +20% Int and WP while in effect, at the cost of taking a month to brew and being quite expensive and difficult to gather for. It also makes you fall asleep for 3d10 hours after it wears off, effective immediately. Still, huge mental boosts can be useful. Similarly, the Draught of Power costs 2 months of time and 550 GC (or a difficult gathering check in a forest) but gives a straight +1 Mag, no cap, for 2 rounds. Not necessarily long enough to be worth it, but if you really need to pull off one of those CN 30+ spells it might be your best move.
Nectar of Beauty is a generic +10 Fellowship potion (but only with people 'attracted to your gender') for 3d10 hours, but renders you sensitive to light, giving -5% to all tests in bright light. Easy to make, 2 weeks to do. The Potion of Comeliness gets weird. It gives a +20% to Fel for 3d10 hours, but causes a Tough-10 test or permanently
lose 5% Int. You also have to make a WP-20 check or become addicted and try to seek a dose a week. Really? So, no-one will ever intentionally use this. This is another of the 'gets odd' potions; it doesn't mention gender but the implication that being attractive makes you stupider and that this is the potion that makes people into slavering addicts just feels off to me. Also the most expensive potion in the book, at 750 GC and 3 weeks to make. The Potion of Pain Denied will give you +20% Toughness and immunity to torture for d10 Hours for 2 weeks of effort and 300 GC, and if you stack that with Potency and maybe God's Spit you can make a PC hit 100% Toughness for awhile, which would be very useful. The Potion of Perceptive Clarity gives Excellent Vision and Acute Hearing, two minor perception bonuses, for d5 hours for 175 GC and a week's effort; what, was Keen Senses too much? Finally, there's Slimming Liquor, which makes a person sweat off excess body fat but 'does nothing for the skin', so that when 'corpulent merchants and nobles try to use it to charm the ladies, they find themselves disgusting with bags of loose skin'. Yay? Not sure why that's going to come up in the game of grim and perilous adventure, but you do you, weird potion writer obsession with cosmetics.
To make potions, you need Mag 1 or better, Read/Write, and either the Apothecary skill or mastery of a Magic Lore. You need an 80, 400, or 1000 GC lab to work with (80 is -10% to potion tests, 400 is +0, 1000 is +10). You need to learn a recipe by adventure or study. Then you either buy or go out and find the Ingredients with an Int test. Finally, you brew potions with Int, and if you fail to brew a batch of a potion you suffer a zany table of misadventures that mostly do damage (thankfully not enough to kill a PC, generally) or destroy your equipment or make the potion come out pre-spoiled. You do get d5 doses per batch made, at least. Also note that since they don't use a skill, you can't get, say, 'Make Potions +10 or +20' as you advance; it's always a bare Int check.
Still, look at all this bullshit you have to go to to make potions. Little wonder these rules don't see much use. I'm really glad this line eventually moved away from this kind of grognardy bullshit for the most part.
Next: Finally, guidelines on what Magic Items should be like
In which +1 Swords are a big deal.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
In which +1 Swords are a big deal.
Magic items are rare. Unlike in d20 country, you can't just pop on down to the shop and pick up a magical weapon. It would be conceivable for a PC to never acquire a magic sword or suit of armor, even at 3rd tier. Part of this is by the system's design; PC Strength and Toughness are carefully limited and in a world where even a master swordsman has a 75% chance to hit, a +10% chance from a magic sword never stops being a big deal. Part of it is a matter of tone; magical gear is the province of the Empire's great heroes and war-leaders because they can't be manufactured. Every item has to be hand-crafted and created and these require rituals or months of effort.
One neat thing, though, is that most magical equipment is actually accidental. It may be very difficult to bind spells into a weapon, suit of armor, or item, but everything in Warhammer is permeated by the general magical energy flowing from the north. Much as the Winds take shapes based on the dreams and hopes (or fears) of mortals, so an item can soak up and shape the raw magical energy that comes into contact with it. So a totally ordinary sword that is used to dispatch a greater demon in a heroic battle might find itself suddenly powerful against Chaos creatures. A venerated relic of a beloved saint will slowly soak up and shape the power flowing through the world around it and may take on real miraculous powers with time. This is very difficult to do on purpose, but it's pretty cool that many magic items are the product of their legend and history rather than someone trying to make a +3 flail of goblin-smashing.
Magic items can also be created by ritual and intention. This is much more common among the elves and dwarfs than among humans. Dwarven runesmithing can create terrifying items of power and does it without risking anyone exploding into demonic horror. Human mages are beginning to understand how to create magical items on purpose without accidentally getting Chaos on them, but the process is still in its infancy like most formal human magic. The book recommends using the rules for creating Rituals for humans enchanting items, meaning it's something that won't come up in normal play. Such weapons and items are usually given to particularly important heroes or generals, but an Adventurer on a very important mission for the Emperor might be granted such a treasure.
Exposure to huge amounts of Chaos energy will also make things magical, even without the shaping process of belief and legend. Needless to say, such items tend to be very dangerous. A sword that was left on an old battlefield in the Chaos Wastes for generations may be unpredictable, but it's likely to be very powerful, especially if its resting place somehow drew more energy towards it. These items are rarely intentionally traps of Chaos, but rather wild and unreliable. The actual trap items are the Gifts of Chaos, like the Chaos Weapons we saw in Tome of Corruption. Chaos Armor, the dark demonic engineering of the Chaos Dwarfs, and gifts of the Gods are inherently corrupting and PCs will regret trying to use any of them to such an extent that they shouldn't try.
Outside of Gold Magic there is no 'identify' spell in Warhammer. You'll need to make a knowledge test, aided by access to libraries or historical record, to understand what a magic item actually does and whether or not it's safe. In practice this is simple enough; the hardest part is usually getting access to a Collegiate library or getting an appointment to talk to an elven sage or dwarven runesmith about what you've found.
Having an actual list of example items goes a long way towards helping a GM tell what sort of power level magic items ought to have. That was something majorly lacking in the original core book, which emphasized their rarity but only had two examples of what they ought to do (A spear of +4 damage against Demons and a +20% Fel ring). Every item also gets its own little story. I won't be repeating all of them, just some of the more interesting ones.
The All Seeing Mirror was originally built by an elven mage who was driven mad by Slaanesh. His own mind filled with fantasies of infidelity, he assumed his wife felt the same and thus that she must be cheating on him. In his jealousy and love of double-standards, he built a mirror that would let him watch her bedroom...and didn't realize he made the item two-way. He was quickly discovered through his wife and her friends seeing him doing his cultist thing through the two-way mirror, and now they're just an interesting two-way communication device. Always useful to have a way to talk instantly over hundreds of miles.
The Amulet of Thrice Blessed Copper was given to a past Emperor by a Cathayan merchant, who explained it was a device used by many of the most powerful Cathayan nobles to defend against poison and assassins. The Emperor, being a pious Sigmarite in a stupider age (about 1000 years ago), had the man executed for trying to wizard in his presence and then gave the amulet to his guard to be destroyed. The guard instead sold it for a new pair of boots. It really is a fantastic protective talisman, providing +20% Toughness against Poison and reducing the damage of any incoming attack by 1. It also turns green in the presence of poison.
The Boots of Bovva are tremendously comfortable and durable boots that also let you kick for SB-0, if you want to roundhouse a knight in full armor or something. Though they still provide double AV against your 'unarmed' attacks. They were made by a renowned cobbler for an ungrateful noble who had him hung for wasting his time. I'm not entirely sure why, given that they're excellent boots even if you don't know about their amazing magical kick power.
The Charm of Hotek is an awesome amulet that provides +1 AV (including going over the normal 5 AV maximum for Plate) and immunity to fire. Except it's infested with Chaos and gives -20% to WP vs. Chaos magic and makes the wearer gain 2 mutations instead of one any time they would. It's made out of the leftover pieces of the armor of Malekith, the King of the Dark Elves. Said armor was designed to keep him alive after he walked into a fire that one time, so even a charm made out of the scraps from the forge has great power over fire. Best not to ask too many questions about why the armor his mother had made for him is, uh, infested with Chaos magic.
Doomfire Rings are one of the few non-unique items. They were built by the most powerful of the early Bright Order to help the lesser Bright Wizards contribute at least a little in the Great War against Chaos. They will let the wearer cast a Mag 3 (and thus, 3 hit) Fireball once per day with a successful WP test. Any character who knows the Lore of Fire can use the ring X number of extra times per day, where X is their Mag. Useful thing to have since it can't miscast and 3 Damage 3 (Damage 4 if you have Mighty Missile) hits at long range is a good thing for any character to pull out of their pocket.
The Elven Cloak is given out to friends of the elves of the Athel Loren, and is also non-unique since wood elves love making magic items almost as much as they love stealing children and murdering people because the trees said to do it. It gives an excellent -10% to any test to shoot at the PC wearing it and +20% to any Concealment checks they make. Simple and very useful.
The Griffon Claw is an enchanted sword manufactured by the Gold Order to give to Imperial Champions and the best swordsmen in the country. It's a simple +10% WS sword, but it's also made of Gromril, which means +1 damage and it'll completely destroy any vampire with the Gromril weakness (remember that means they can't use their TB against it. At all). Not sure where they're getting the Gromril for it, considering they're supposed to be keeping their work on Gromril as secret as possible and handing out officer's swords made of the stuff seems like it'd give up the game.
A Maid's Charm is unusual in that it's a very easy to create item, commonly found throughout the Empire. It's a small necklace often made by priestesses of Rhya, which makes the wearer unable to conceive a child until they take it off. So yes, it's perfect, relatively easily made magical birth control that is sanctioned by the cult of the goddess of mothers and nature. Life Wizards can also craft these, as can simple hedge wizards and witches. As an added note, ones made by Life Wizards resemble the 'spiral of life' as they understand it. Maybe a double-helix?
A list of Imperial items wouldn't be complete without the Runefangs. These are the badge of office of the Elector Counts, made by the ancient Runesmith Alaric the Mad as gifts for his king's human allies. They date back to the time of Sigmar himself. Alaric broke many of the unspoken rules of Runesmithing in making the twelve swords, namely making more than one of the exact same item; each is forged from Gromril and provides a Master Rune of Alaric the Mad. As we'll see in the Runesmithing chapter, the Master Rune of Alaric makes a weapon completely ignore AV. The two swords forged for lost provinces are kept under lock and key in the Imperial arsenal, to be given out to heroes on quests necessary to the entire Empire. Probably the most likely way your PCs would ever see one.
Annoyingly, many of the various 'magic sword of X' entries don't list the weapons' actual game effects, but just which Runes they have and reference the Runesmithing chapter. These are all items taken from the TT game, if I recall correctly. The reason they matter is because they set down that the 'average' magic item of legend is still only a Sword of +10% WS or a Sword of +1 Attacks (which is a huge goddamn deal, admittedly). Very few do more than one thing and weapons like the Runefangs are very, very rare. Equipment upgrades in WHFRP are usually marginal, minor upgrades because the system is set up such that +1 Damage, +10% to-hit, or even +1 extra Armor is a big deal.
Unless and until you get to Runesmiths. Depending on how much time your GM gives a Runesmith to make things, they're either one of the most powerful class tracks in the game or they're going to be sad and never get to use their abilities.
From my experience playing and running the game, the bonuses on magic items are not as petty and small as they seem. The fluff of magic in Warhammer gives you plenty of interesting routes to make magic treasure and hand it out sparingly, and any magic item tends to make a big difference in a campaign. The official campaign, for instance, hands out a pair of gloves that give a permanent +10% WS and S; considering that the best you can get with 'mundane' equipment is a +5% to-hit and parry from a Best quality item, these are pretty significant buffs.
Next Time: Runesmiths: Feast or Famine.
The most awkward PC Track
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
The most awkward PC Track
Runesmiths are the only sort of magical dwarfs permitted by sane and normal dwarfkind. Many of the greatest magical relics in the setting were produced by Runesmiths, despite dwarfs being incapable of perceiving the Winds of Magic or learning spellcraft (outside of the mad Sorcerers of the Chaos Dwarfs). The titular Warhammer, Ghal Maraz (Skull-Splitter), was a gift from a dwarf king to Sigmar when the young warrior rescued him from a greenskin ambush way back at the start of his career. You can't make something like Ghal Maraz, but a Runesmith PC can get pretty damn close at the upper tiers of the class line. Assuming your GM gives you a couple years to work. Therein lie the issues with PC Runesmithing: It's either going to be insanely powerful and grant a PC party really impressive magical items, some of which can break the game's scaling, or your GM isn't going to let you use it because it takes so goddamn much time. It all depends on how much downtime you get.
No-one really knows how Rune Magic works, because the dwarfs absolutely will not explain it. This is the one secret they will never share with the humans, no matter how close the two grow. They'll give humans gifts of runic items, or (in very rare cases) even accept commissions to make them, but Rune Magic is the province of the Runesmiths' guild and is not to be shared with anyone else, under any circumstances. The closest the book comes to explaining is saying that the runes 'trap' the Winds of Magic in an item in the desired shape, taking advantage of the same properties that will cause a legend or exposure to empower an item but forcing it into the shape the Runesmith wants by manipulating how the object absorbs and conducts magical energy. How the dwarfs know how to do this when they can't sense the Winds at all is beyond me, but I think that's intentional, given how little they talk about how their secretive magics work. A Dwarf Runesmith still has a Mag stat, still gains 1 Mag per Career as they go up their line, but statistically they're built much closer to Priests than Wizards (They're solid second-line fighters and learned scholars) and they don't use their Mag to cast spells in combat or anything. They use them entirely for Inscribing Runes. They also can't miscast. Nothing can actually go wrong during Runesmithing; the only thing you can lose is time. Runesmiths work with Talismans, Armor, and Weapons, though in the wider setting they also craft engineering devices and siege engines. Siege engines are intentionally kept out of the RPG for the most part, since they aren't on the scale the game runs. What party carries around a trebuchet?
A Runesmith can make Temporary or Permanent inscriptions. A Temporary Rune can be added to a Good or Best item, a Permanent Rune requires a Best quality base item. The difference between the two is time. Temporary runes are fast enough to be inscribed in a day's work, then remain on the item, which is effectively non-magical until they're triggered by the wielder. Then they usually work for a few rounds before the Rune burns out and the item becomes non-magical again as if the rune had never been there. Permanent Runes remain forever. Yes, this is a PC class that can make permanent magic items without any chance of dying to the Ritual rules or blowing up their forge. For step one, the Inscription, it takes a week for a Permanent Rune and 2d10 minutes for a Temporary Rune, at which point the smith rolls d10s equal to their Mag and compares it to the Inscription Number of their Rune, just like a wizard using a spell. They know immediately if they failed at this step. If they succeed, the item is about as good as made, but the bulk of the time commitment is still ahead of them. Next, they have to Empower the item a certain number of times, as listed in the Rune entry. Empowerment tests take 20 minutes for a Temporary Rune, 1 month for a Permanent. At the end of each test, make a Runesmithing skill check. If you succeed, you Empowered it once. Once the smith has hit the number of Empowerment successes listed on the Rune, the item is ready for Binding. Binding is basically a formality, with no tests involved, where the Runesmith spends a final d10 days for a Permanent rune or d10 minutes for a Temporary one finishing up. Not really sure why they included it, given the minuscule time commitment and assured success. At the end of the process, you have a Runic Item.
So yes, given 3 months (we'll get to the numbers in a bit), a Runesmith can make a +10% to hit (+15% really, since it's still Best) sword that counts as magic and thus kills ghosts and demons quite well. They actually have decent(ish) odds of pulling that off at the start of a campaign. The question is whether or not you ever get the time. Especially as if you're going by the standard Trappings rules your GM will need to give you time or you'll never be able to promote out of Apprentice, since you need a Runic Item for Journeyman (and another for Master and Lord). There are a few bits where the game could use some more clarity on what counts as a Runic Item; I'm not sure if a Temporary Rune item would count if it wasn't activated.
Similarly, there are a few rules a smith needs to follow. Form has to follow function. Substances used in Runic Magic have to be 'hard' and 'resilient'; bone and wood count, but paper and leather don't. An item can't have more than one of the same type of Rune on it; no stacking Runes of Striking for a +30% to-hit sword. You also can't put more than 3 Runes on one item; there isn't enough room for more magic after a point. Master Runes, the big and super powerful Runes only available to 3rd tier and better Runesmiths, have to be the only Rune on an item or else adding them fails. No stacking Master Runes or putting two normal Runes and one Master on an item. When we get to the Master Runes it will make sense that you can't have more than one. A Runesmith needs to spend at least 4 hours a day working on an item for the day to count, and if they leave an item for more than a month without spending a day to touch it up, the magic fails. Finally, the most confusing rule: A Runesmith can't make the same exact item twice. The reason this is confusing is, how is this defined? Do Temporary items count, since they lose their Runic status when they're used up? How does it deal with, say, a dwarf making a Runed axe AND a Runed sword with the same Rune? Is this permissible since they're 'different' items even though in game terms they're both Hand Weapons? These questions aren't even considered in the book. The Temporary question is especially pressing, since it's going to decide how often it's useful to have your Runesmith do a short crafting montage in order to remain relevant.
Before we get to the Runes themselves, let's also examine the Runesmith Career Track. They start out primarily useful for their knowledge skills and high Int and WP, but remember that a dwarf gets +10 WS and Toughness over a human for their species, as well as having Sturdy just for being a dwarf (no armor penalties). They also know how to smith mundane equipment (and still have the dwarf racial bonuses at that) and they're not half bad at judging the value of craftsmanship, since they need to know how to do that to tell if something's worth runing. As they go into Journeyman, they learn Dodge and become a decent second-line fighter, gaining some acceptable fighting and physical advances. Where they're lacking is Talents. They only get 2 Runes to start, and both have to be simple ones they could make with 1d10 for their 1 Mag. They learn 4 more as a Journeyman, no longer limited in Inscription Number, plus either Artistic or Hardy, but they're lacking in support or skill talents. Also note every Rune is a separate Talent and thus costs 100 EXP to learn. They do get Strike Mighty Blow and a second attack in Master Runesmith, and learn their two Master Runes; no Runesmith ever learns more than two of those. They also learn 4 more Runes, and Runelord won't actually give them more Runes. The Master Runesmith has modest skill with weapons but good physical advances in addition to huge WP and Int, and can also learn Flails or Two Handed weapons. The Runelord is a genuinely solid fighter who also learns diplomacy skills, gets a +40% WP advance (remember, any +40s are a big deal), can learn one weapon group of any sort (including gun or whatever), and finishes out with 4 Mag, making it much easier for them to make the most powerful of items. They don't learn any additional Runes over the Master, though.
Another thing that's interesting is that Runesmiths have lots of good fighting and scholastic Exits. An Apprentice can dip over into Shieldbreaker to learn to fight early or Runebearer to become a dwarven sprinter (seriously, Runebearers can get +2 Move, making them as fast as elves. They're dwarf messengers), or can go into Scholar. Journeyman can only go into Scholar or Shieldbreaker if they don't want to go to Master right away. Masters can drop right into Veteran if they want to become a better and better-rounded warrior (or even go on to Champion and just stop advancing at smithing), and Runelords can go out of Runelord into Captain or Guildmaster, either option making them a social powerhouse (though if you completed a 4th tier wizardy career you're in a long as hell campaign or you started high level). These options are really helpful, especially as a Runesmith is going to end up using their non-magical and combat skills an awful lot in a standard campaign.
Next Time: The RUNES
Build your own insane relics of power
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy: Realms of Sorcery
Build your own insane relics of power
Runesmithing is weird. I talked about all the drawbacks and awkwardness last time, but now we're going to get into why it can be frankly overpowered if your GM lets you make plenty of items. Remember that damage modifiers and damage reduction are normally pretty tightly controlled in WHFRP2e. A magic Hand or Great Weapon with +1 Damage and +10% to hit (and Parry, and it's still Best, so +5% for Best) isn't going to destroy the game, but it's effectively 3-4 advances of power that can stack on top of capping out your combat advances.
Our first rune is the Master Rune of Adamant, a CN 25 Master Rune that will, at minimum, take 7 months of effort to inscribe on a suit of armor, permanently. I'll mostly be describing times in terms of permanent inscription since for the most part a Temporary inscription is always going to be a matter of a few hours. It gives a flat +10% to the Toughness stat (including all Toughness saves, and Toughness Bonus) of the armor's bearer. Like most buff runes, the Temporary version sticks around until the user activates it, at which point it lasts for 1 minute, then fades. This is a good bonus, though when we get to other Master Runes it actually seems a little less powerful than most of them. +1 DR and +10% to one of the more common save stats is never a bad prize on a suit of armor.
The Master Rune of Alaric the Mad is a CN 27 Master Weapon Rune that also takes 7 months at minimum, but makes the weapon it's inscribed on ignore all AV, from any source. Note this is effectively +AV Damage to a weapon. Say you're fighting a DR 9 (4 TB, 5 AV) Chaos Warrior, you're going to do an average of 5 more damage to him with this weapon, which is a big deal when he has 12 hit points. Very, very few things ignore or reduce armor in WHFRP2e outside of very powerful magic. This is the magic used in the Imperial Runefangs (And as someone pointed out, one reason Alaric is called Alaric the Mad is because he was willing to make 12 identical Runefangs. The other is because he experimented with Runing up Warpstone). You'll have to be 3rd tier (probably 4th) to make this but it makes an incredibly powerful magic weapon in a game where high-end foes rely a lot on DR and 3-5 Armor DR is very significant.
The Master Rune of Balance is a CN 25 Talismanic Rune that can only be used by the Runesmiths themselves. Takes 8 months to make, and allows the Runesmith to spend a half action and target a spellcaster, reducing their Mag by 1 for rounds equal to the Runesmith's Mag. The Temporary version only works once. From what I gather from the TT game, counterspelling and dispelling were the main uses of TT Runesmiths, and this is a pretty cool trick to have.
The Master Rune of Breaking is a CN 25 Weapon Rune that takes 6 months minimum, and when inscribed on a weapon, if you Parry another magical weapon with the Runed item and win an opposed Strength test, you shatter the enemy's magic item, permanently. Now, in a D&D esque setting this would be insanely powerful, but how often do you fight people with magic weapons in Warhammer? Still, potentially very useful for destroying Chaos Weapons, Daemon Weapons, or the fancy rapier of that smug vampire lord.
The Master Rune of Dismay is a CN 28 Talismanic Rune that has to be inscribed on a mighty war horn, taking 9 months minimum. If the user spends an action blowing the horn, all enemies within 48 yards have to make a WP save or become dismayed, reduced to only being able to use a half action next turn. Action economy fuckery is always extremely powerful, and one character being able to use a half action to take many enemies' actions away is the kind of thing that never works out well. It's curious that this doesn't have any limitations on when and how often it can be used. Temp version works once.
The Master Rune of Flight is a CN 21 Weapon Rune that exists solely so you can toss Mjolnir at peoples' heads, which is a pretty good reason to exist. It must be inscribed on a hammer, and takes 5 months to make. It grants the wielder Specialist Weapons (Throwing) and lets them throw the hammer at 24 yards at +30% BS, after which the hammer returns to their hand. Given it returns at the end of your turn, you'll only ever be able to throw it once, so no Swift Attacking with Mjolnir tosses, which will end up making this a bit underwhelming. Especially as they don't clarify if you still use the normal Hand Weapon stats for the hammer when thrown, or the shitty SB-2 Throwing Hammer stats that explain why no-one ever uses the Throwing proficiency. Temp version works only once.
The Master Rune of Gromril is a CN 30 (!) Armor Rune that takes 8 months to make because it's insanely powerful. It grants a suit of armor +2 AV, and allows it to break the 5 AV cap. Now, it's not clear if you have to Rune every piece of armor individually or if you Rune the entire suit; I'd generally say the latter. This lets you get DR 7 armor. Remember that very few things ignore armor. As this is only going to be made by a Runelord (generally) assume party-mates are of similar power levels, and throw this on a Grail Knight, Champion, or Knight of the Inner Circle: You've now got a DR 12 or 13 (on average, it could be higher) fighter. That's on par with a Chaos Lord. Breaking the armor cap starts to get PCs into a realm where an average Damage 3 attack can no longer hurt them.
The Master Rune of Kingship is probably in here because it's a powerful item on Tabletop, and it's a CN 33 Rune that cannot be temporarily inscribed and takes a full 15 months at minimum. When inscribed on a crown, it renders allies equal to the wearer's Fel immune to Fear and Terror. Which is helpful, don't get me wrong, but this is the most difficult rune in the book. It's the kind of thing that would be insanely good for the leader of an army but it isn't quite suited to an adventuring party the same way.
The Master Rune of Skalf Blackhammer is a simple and very powerful CN 31 Weapon Rune that takes 9 months to make. It gives a weapon +3 damage (wow) and Impact. Note this can be inscribed on, say, a Crossbow (or even a longbow, technically, but that would mean you might be giving a Master Runic item to an elf or something and I'm pretty sure that's a grudgin') to make a Damage 7 Impact ranged weapon (Damage 8 Armor Piercing Impact in the hands of someone good at the ranged talents) which is about on par with the given stats for a light ballista. Similarly, put it on a hand weapon and now you've got SB+3 damage (which is insane as is), the free parry for a shield, and the main benefit of a two-hander (Impact) on a one-handed weapon. Once again, you have to be a 4th Tier Runelord to make one of these, but they're powerful to a degree that they can break the game's normal scaling once you do. These are superior to most of the Chaos and Daemon weapons.
The Master Rune of Snorri Spanglehelm is a similar simple, big weapon buff, though a little less useful. It's CN 29 and takes 8 months, and simply gives +30% WS when attacking with the runed weapon. This is a huge buff, don't get me wrong, but the buff the Rune of Skalf Blackhammer gives is applicable at all levels with no cap. A 3rd tier fighter given a Snorri Spanglehelm special by their buddy probably already has an 75-80% WS, and now you're giving them a Best weapon with +30 to hit on top of it. Effectively, they're only getting 20-25 of that bonus, when a simpler Rune of Striking (we'll get to it) would've given an effective +15 with more room for other buffs.
The Master Rune of Spellbinding is a CN 26 Talismanic rune that takes 9 months to make. It makes magic harder, reducing all spellcasting by 1 per d10 spent on the spell within 48 yards of the bearer. Combine this with an item with the Rune of Balance and a Runesmith can really fuck with enemy wizards.
The Master Rune of Spite is ridiculously powerful for a CN 24 Talismanic Rune that only takes 8 months to make. It reduces the Damage of any incoming attack, including those that ignore armor, by 2. It's Talismanic and operates on reducing damage instead of adding to AV, so it effectively could stack with the Rune of Gromril. Toss this on the guy with Gromril to get DR 14-15. Now, I've played a character in that DR range (Exalted Lord of Chaos with 90% Toughness and 5 AV) and trust me, it starts to get tough on your GM to introduce threats that can seriously hurt you. Now admittedly, this is something that'd take two Master Runes, and a character only ever learns 2 Master Runes, and one of them would clearly demand the Smith be Tier 4. But this gets at the problem with Runesmiths: Depending on how much leeway you get to make things, you have the potential to be mostly unable to use your special abilities. Alternately, you could be the happy medium where you make a few masterworks but mostly provide a source of awkward but impressive temporary buffs after various dwarfen crafting monstages. But there's also the potential for the one who outfits their party like a D&D group and snaps the game in half.
The Master Rune of Steel is a CN 28 Armor Rune that takes 8 months, and provides a useful and interesting benefit: With it, you force enemies to reroll damage and take the worse result. This only works if your armor points would work against their attack. Fair enough, and definitely reduces the damage you'll be taking without necessarily putting in an overly-high DR cap.
The Master Rune of Swiftness is a CN 23 rune that takes 5 months to make and is also the saddest rune. It provides +30% to your Agility for purposes of Initiative. Sure, you'll go first, but compared to the other Master Weapon Runes, and remembering you can only have a single rune on a Master Rune item? I'll take Skalf Blackhammer, Alaric the Mad, or Snorri Spanglehelm any day.
Next Up: The Normal Runes
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
Normal runes are less individually powerful than Master Runes but have the advantage of being much easier, faster, and being able to combo with one another. A 3 rune weapon can give a Master Rune a run for its money in all ways.
The Rune of Cleaving is a simple, easy CN 14 Rune that takes 4 months to make. It gives the weapon +1 to damage. Nothing special, but in a game where +1 damage is a pretty significant advance this would be a welcome upgrade for any PC.
The Rune of Fate is a Talismanic Rune that can only be made Temporarily, interestingly. It's CN 16 and Empowerment 4, so it'll take a few hours and a Journeyman or better. When carried into battle, it lets the wearer ignore the first blow that would take them to or below 0 Wounds, then breaks. This is really helpful because it outright negates the attack. Say you got unlucky and took a 9 Wound hit from a cavalry charge or something; outright ignoring it leaves you with 9 Wounds left and in good shape to continue the fight. It's like a better version of being able to Burn Fate.
The Rune of Fire is a CN 17 Rune that takes 5 months, and it makes a weapon burst into flame on your command. It doesn't set people on fire, but it does shed light equal to a torch and provide +1 damage, which will stack with Cleaving. No word on if this counts as a flaming attack for purposes of stuff vulnerable to fire like some Life Wizards and Vampires, but I'd imagine it would. Should be specific about that kind of thing, though.
The Rune of Fortitude is a CN 17 Rune that takes 6 months, and makes the armor provide the wearer with +4 Wounds. I'd usually prefer more DR, but if you're in heavy armor, 4 wounds is actually a significant amount of extra staying power and will stack well on top of your normal Wounds from leveling. It'll probably let you eat one or two more hits.
The Rune of the Furnace is a CN 17 Talismanic Rune that takes 8 months (!) but grants the bearer total immunity to fire. Any attack that has a fire component bounces off them, magical or non-magical, do not roll damage, do not check DR. You want to walk through dragon's breath and dance around taunting Bright Wizards until they explode in fury, get one of these.
The Rune of Fury is a CN 20 (meaning only Master Runesmiths are likely to be able to make one) Weapon Rune and the best non-Master Weapon Rune, taking 6 months. They grant +1 Attacks. Remember that normally a character only ever has 3 attacks, even at high levels, and that an extra attack is usually the mark of a fighting character advancing an entire tier. End-boss level classes like Exalted Lord of Chaos and Vampire Lord are the only normal way to break the PC Attacks cap. Being able to get a 3rd attack early or a 4th attack when at cap is a huge improvement in a fighting character's capabilities.
The Rune of Grudges is a CN 12 Weapon Rune that takes 4 months to make. It allows you to narrow your eyes, point your weapon at one specific guy per combat, and mutter 'That's a grudgin' as a free action. You then get one free reroll on all missed attacks against that specific enemy for the remainder of this combat. This is pretty great if you want to be able to pick out one specific dangerous enemy per combat and go after them like an angry, bearded homing missile, and if you didn't want to do that what's wrong with you?
The Rune of Iron is a solid CN 15 Armor Rune that takes 6 months to make. It reduces all damage done to the wearer by 1, even damage that should ignore armor. This is pretty useful. Simple and very handy for the same reason all DR increases are handy.
The Rune of Luck is a CN 20 Talismanic Rune that takes 7 months to make. It provides the person wearing it with +1 Fortune points per day, or in temporary form, can be expended to instantly grant a Fortune point. Fortune Points totally rule, so this is very good. The odd bit is it won't work for anyone with the Lucky talent; they have the same kind of good luck naturally and the talisman can't do any more for them.
The Rune of Might is a CN 15 Weapon Rune that takes 5 months and is really weird, because nothing else in WHFRP2e works like it does outside of maybe that one vampire killing greatsword from Night's Dark Masters. It doubles your strength bonus if you use the weapon to attack something with 50 or high Toughness. Multiplying stats can really fuck with scaling and this rune will let you do terrible things to anything that's relying on a high-ish TB and Wounds but no armor, which is probably the intent.
The Rune of Resistance is a CN 18 Armor Rune that takes 7 months to make. It's...weird. It only works against attacks that completely ignore TB and AV both, letting you make a Toughness save to try to negate the damage. The problem is, you take a -5% on the Toughness save per wound you're trying to stop. And if you have no TB or AV against an attack, you're probably taking a fair number of wounds. Also, only a few things ignore both
sources of DR; the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the AoE d10 Damage no DR attack from Death Magic. Probably won't come up much.
The Rune of Shielding is a CN 14 Armor Rune that takes 5 months to make and is crazy powerful. It makes any non-magical missile attack inflict Damage 0 (so d10+0) against the wearer. So yes, this will basically make you immune to guns and bows if you have heavy armor and a good TB, allowing your dwarf to trundle endlessly towards frustrated and angry elves as they empty their quivers at you futilely. Off to the side, someone with the Virtue of Noble Disdain is screaming 'RIGHT ON, FUCK BOWS!' and fist-bumping you.
The Rune of Speed is a CN 6 Weapon Rune that only takes 3 months, and makes the weapon provide +d10 Initiative at the start of a fight. Beggars can't be choosers during your apprenticeship and this is the easiest rune in the game, but it isn't enormously useful.
The Rune of Spellbreaking is a CN 13 rune that can't be inscribed permanently, but the 3 Empowerment rating means it'll only take an hour or so to make. It's a Talisman, and is used to dispel on-going magic. It can't kill demons or unbind undead, and it can't target Ritual spells. You make a Runesmithing test at -10 per point of Mag from the spellcaster you're trying to stop, and if you succeed their spell is shattered. Breaking spells is always useful and this is one of the classic uses of Rune Magic.
The Rune of Spelleating is a CN 20 Rune with 5 Empowerment that works exactly like the Spellbreaking rune, except that if you succeed the original spellcaster can't use that spell again for 24 hours.
The Rune of Stone is the hardest rune an Apprentice might be able to inscribe, at CN 10 and 3 months. It simply provides +1 Armor to a suit of armor, raising its armor cap to 6. Simple, effective, stacks with Iron? Great. DR is always, always helpful in WHFRP2e.
The Rune of Striking is another simple one for apprentices, at CN 8 and 3 months to make. It makes a weapon grant +10% to WS when attacking. Combined with needing to be a Best weapon, this can give someone a +15% WS on attacks weapon. That never stops being a useful bonus, especially with how easy this rune is to inscribe. I imagine Striking ends up a part of most weapon-rune combos.
Finally, the Rune of Warding is another apprentice-capable rune at CN 9 and 3 months. It creates a Talisman that provides +10% to WP tests to resist magic. Simple, useful, easy to make.
So, that's runes. I'm sure you can see how combining 3 of these could make insane items. However, the temporary rune rules can let you start up the dwarfen crafting montage of justice just before climactic battles and that's always fun. Giving someone a sword that can temporarily turn into a blazing blade of grudge-settlin' that slays monsters like crazy just before you go fight a Chaos Dragon is the intended use of Runesmithing, I'm sure of it. The Permanent stuff is weird because it doesn't cost any resources or adventuring, just an awful lot of time and rolling dice.
If there's one thing I'd say is a persistent flaw in Realms of Sorcery it's the assumption that time is a good limiter on PC activities. Time is a boring limiter, and it's variable how much time is going to affect a given PC group depending on their GM and their preferred ideas about pacing. Linking all these research and potion making and runesmithing activities to storyline progress and character milestones would have been a better idea, as would making them less likely to kill the PCs (exception Runesmithing, which is totally safe and free). As it is, most of these systems will be ignored by most groups as too fiddly and too time consuming.
Next Time: Explosion Crimes
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery
I'll just be summarizing the adventure for Realms, but it's actually a pretty good one if you play along with what it intends. It's expecting the party to prefer tricking and sneaking their way through problems rather than fighting and comes with 4 just-finished-their-first-career PCs: A clever young Grey Wizard who has just learned his lore and who is determined to do something useful and good with his powers no matter who he has to trick, a quick-footed mercenary halfling who's a good shot with a crossbow (this is actually the party muscle), a failed priest turned barber-surgeon who is very brave and good with people, and an excellent fast-talking ex-lady in waiting turned burgler. The pre-mades are very well suited to the adventure and pretty good in general, if a bit lacking in muscle (really, a Halfling as your fighter?).
The adventure centers around a more roguish or scholarly party being offered a fair bit of money and respect by a Magister of the Orders if they will investigate a strange happening at a wine festival in Averland, one of the agricultural heartlands of the Empire. People are exploding. As in, big ball of bright light, fire, and crater exploding. No-one's sure why, but it's a fair bet that both magic and probably wine are involved. The adventure strongly recommends one PC be a Journeyman Wizard so that the party understands magical affairs. They arrive to find that yes, people are spontaneously combusting and exploding in Averland, but they can't stop the yearly wine festival; it's one of the most important economic events in the province, and it coincides with the halfling holy festival of Pie Week (it's a week where you eat pie) anyway. There are a couple red herrings, like an insane halfling murderer who loves setting fires who exists to draw the PCs off a bit, but the situation is rather more bizarre than yet another evil Chaos Cult.
There is a local doctor of medicine and philosophy named Draupner who has been experimenting with the why and how of magical ability. He wants to find out what makes a mage a mage, compared to a mundane person. To that end, he had managed to convince two rather stupid local crime bosses that he was on the trail of making a substance that could grant the gift of magic. They thought they could sell this and shelled out the money to support his experiments, despite the fact that any sane man should've run screaming from the room when he mentioned sowing the grapes of a field with warpstone. Warpstone never works out. This is the source of the exploding victims, and also several exploding cows: These are people Draupner has fed his special 'make a person magic' wine. When he first showed it off, it allowed the drinker to produce small fires and other magic phenomena...before the drinker exploded in a spherical burst of fire and light. One of the two Crime Bosses, Albrecht Swearmonger, thought this meant this was blasphemy before the God of Thieves, Ranald, since Ranald demands no killing. His former partner Faustman decided this meant the wine was still valuable, even if it only turned out to be a way to make living bombs, and seized the production and recipe and tried to kill his old partner. Draupner didn't care too much as long as he got to keep working, and Faustman has been happy to slip his work to various derelicts and homeless folks to test it ever since.
Your PCs slowly figure this all out while investigating and dealing with the red herring firebug halfling murderer, and then are approached by Swearmonger once they get close enough. He proposes a trick whereby the PCs pretend to murder him as Faustman's partner at the evil bidding auction where Faustman is showing off the explosion wine to a variety of super-villain wannabes and accuse Faustman of running a con, which then starts a massive brawl between a vampire looking for a new way to assassinate other vampires, a bored mercenary captain who thought the wine sounded amusing, and an ulrican terrorist who wants to swap the stuff with ceremonial wine at the Sigmarite temple in Middenheim. Once the PCs start this brawl, their goal is to destroy the remaining wine and fight their way through the chaos to safety while the various murderers and cutthroats resolve themselves behind them.
In general it's a pretty fun idea for a comic adventure with a conclusion that might include vampire on mafia on mercenary on terrorist violence while minions explode in the background from evil wine and the PCs try to jump out a window and run for it after provoking each major combatant into going at each other's throats, which is hardly the worst way a wine tasting could end.
So that's it for the Realms of Sorcery. They add a lot to the general spell lists of the Lores, Runesmithing is an interesting if slightly mixed bag, and the fluff is great at fleshing out more theories about how magic works and why. It's got a good, solid history of some of the older and more mysterious events of the Old World and even some speculation about the Old Ones, while leaving most of that open to fill in. The book is marred by player-unfriendly mechanics and its over-use of long downtimes as a limiter on player activities, and many of its subsystems are too complex for their own good. Still, for one of the first sourcebooks of the line, it's a good start, and it got better from there.
Next Time: The Tome of Salvation Begins