You could even get people trying to predict the properties, with greater or lesser success. Imagine the PCs being sent on a quest for Element X, with about three competing theories of what it should look like. Go to Comment
I quite liked it. What else do they use the Tan'S'krae for? Is it involved in courtship, or in ritual ceremonies?
Do they, like true amphibians, lay their eggs in the water and pass through a larval stage (like tadpoles)? If so, what is their attitude to these larvae? Do they protect them or do they just have lots and have many of them get eaten; essentially not considering them true people until they have turned in to adults.
Also, although I liked the idea of them not being spiritual and thus amazed by sorcery, I found the fact that they didn't have any form of religion slightly hard to swallow, without some more justification. After all, in the real world, we don't have ethereal worlds or sorcery but still, every society (I think) has some kind of religion and worship of deities/spirits/ancestors/etc. However, that might just be me thinking this. Go to Comment
The S'krae Lifeforms (Intelligent Species)
Good, though very strange. I would have given it 4.5 as I love the story, however, I'm not too sure how I could integrate it into a role play. How can the PCs in a typical pre-industrial fantasy world (as it seems to be) hope to fight against or even understand the nature of a super-intelligent microbial race capable of starflight? Go to Comment
Yes, they're all good examples in the items thread: I hadn't read the Sadist Dagger before. Another good example is Siren's latest post: "Hill breaker" which, as well as other things we've mentioned, only has magic effects if the person believes in the legend (I'm not sure if he read this post before doing that item or if it's just coincidence!).
A few more random riffs on the idea (some of which are unfortunately mutually exclusive).
I definitely agree with Manfred that 5 mediocre fighters shouldn't be able to cumulatively produce an excellent weapon! But maybe you don't actually have to be powerful, just brave for some things? e.g. a peasant who takes up a spear to rescue his children and by luck kills some trained fighters could maybe make it could. Probably the highest bonuses shouldn't be given this way.
Maybe the person who created it only gets half the bonus that someone else does. After all, I'm sure Moonhunter was more inspired by using Willy Mays' bat than Willy Mays is: after all, it's normal to him. You could have some sort of sliding scale that the more powerful you are, the less bonuses you get (though you would always get an added bonus for it being your own personal weapon if you'd carried it for years).
Maybe you only get the bonuses if you know who's it is. This would mean that the power of these items would fade in time as the memory of the deeds of their owners faded.
Unfortunately, these ideas are mutually exclusive with Shadoweagle's suggestion that this is what TRUE magic is, with enchantments and things just an imitation. If this was the case then although spell-crafters could probably make very powerful items (e.g. swords with massive to hit bonus), they would usually lack the finesse and subtlety of the powers of these heroic items: in the same way that nowadays we can construct huge buildings/fly faster (in aeroplanes) than the fastest bird but our best chemical catalysts are still in the stone age compared with most enzymes.
You might even get penalties if you were using an item that belonged to a person from an enemy country who you thought of as evil. Go to Comment
Remember the huge number of instruments that have existed in the real world. Serpents (wind instruments which actually had serpent's heads carved in them), brass instruments with huge numbers of loops, triangular violins and so on. Also, in many periods, instruments were so expensive that they were a work of art - quite literally, not just in the time and skill which went in to their construction. Pianos would have elaborate paintings (as good as any which would go on the walls) painted on the back or in the bit under where the strings go. Go to Comment
Specific unusual instruments from the museum
- A glass harmonica (about the size of a small keyboard instrument) which was designed by Benjamin Franklin.
- The "lyroharp", basically like 3 guitars (18 strings in total) fused at the base. The two side "necks" went up at about 30 degrees on either side of the centre neck; a curving piece of wood then connected all three necks at the top.
- Pochettes, 18th century violins small enough that music teachers could carry them in their pockets.
- The Nest of Serpents: 12 serpents (i.e. long, wide curved wind instruments with heads carved like serpents) put around a central decorated column (about 5 ft high). Each serpent was separate (musically) from the rest though it was all joined together in a physical sense. Required 12 people to play. Go to Comment
The dragon horns of the dwarves of the Amra mountains are amongst the most difficult instruments to play in the world, due to the amount of breath that they demand. These huge, wide horns are heavy enough that they require 6 dwarves to carry; the front of it is carved in to a ferocious dragon's head and the rest of it ornately decorated as well. All six dwarves must blow and play in unison in order to produce a good sound. The dragon horns are played twice a year, at the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes in large festivals to ward off the forces of evil. The playing of the horns is meant to invoke the protective dragon spirits of the Amra dwarfs (the dwarfs believe that the dragons in the Amra mountains are their guardians (whether they are or not is up to you)). Each horn is a family heirloom and it is an honour to be selected to be one of the six horn players. Go to Comment
The fisherfolk of the Idril coast use many simple instruments to make music; amongst them is the Psiltaria, or "fish player." This small stringed instrument is shaped like a fish and has three strings. The strings are played by hitting them with small sticks. Go to Comment
Wind stones (continued from Alec_Shadowkin's post
Perhaps the stones, as well as emitting the haunting melody, are fashioned such that occasionally, in a strong wind at just the right speed, the stone will resonate producing a very loud, low booming noise (sort of resembling humpback whale sounds). Go to Comment
Thanks for the suggestions Strolen. There are a whole lot of ideas/questions in there, a few of which I had thought of before but the majority of which I hadn't. I'll see where I go with trying to answer them, whilst simultaneously updating my world pack to incorporate the things I'd never considered! (I'll be replying to them in a fairly random order).
I agree by the way about the similarities to your Aros system - I hadn't noticed it the first time I read it, but upon rereading it there definitely is: particularly in the rarity of the gems/sand and also in the linking each one with a magical domain.
First a few simple points.
i) Quality of gems. Only flawless (or practically flawless - I guess on the molecular scale any gem has some discontinuities but I basically mean ones a jeweller would call "flawless") gems are suitable for magic. This has two effects. Firstly it dramatically cuts down the number of gems around (adding to the rarity). Secondly it means that gems unsuitable for magic but still of good quality are still used extensively in jewellery. Naturally you have to have a good knowledge of gems to tell the difference, which ties in with some later points.
ii) Yes, size does make a difference. I wasn't actually clear about this above, but the mana gain figures I was quoting above were for 1 "unit" There is a certain (reasonably large) minimum size for a gem to be any use at all (this varies from gem to gem and is the size of "1 unit". My gemstone tables actually have sub tables coming from them regarding size. If you've found a ruby (above the minimum size and of suitable quality for magic) there are random tables to roll on to determine how big it is (with the most common size being 1 unit of course, and bigger ones getting rarer). For game simplicity I assume that gems only come in whole or half integer sizes.
iii) A destroyed gem disintegrates in to nothing. It is not possible to use only part of a gem - you have to use all of it at once. If you, for example, were using a 2unit onyx in a spell that had a component of 1 onyx, you couldn't use just half the gem. Instead what would happen is that you would use 1 unit of the onyx as a spell component and the other 1 would give you mana (meaning you might actually gain mana from casting the spell!). Note that you can't use more than 1 gem in a spell to boost its power unless the spell specifically says you can do this. For this reason, small (i.e. 1 unit) gems are actually more useful, so most wizards, upon finding a large one, might well get it cut (or cut it themselves) in to smaller gems.
Now on to more interesting/difficult questions. Regarding diamond mines and the like. I really hadn't given them enough thought before. Let's see what I can make of it. Fortunately, it can tie in quite well with history of my world. It has been civilised for several thousand years and is currently in the second of two "highly developed" periods (highly developed meaning c. 17th century technology (but no gunpowder) and the "science" of magic being fairly well developed. The previous period (which ended about 1400 years ago) was meant to have had a much more highly developed magic system.
This would fit in very well with availability of gems: in the first period, as it was the first time people were so developed, all the mines had a lot of gems in. Magic was thus very plentiful. Now, gems are much rarer. All the mines have been largely worked out. Naturally, some gems are still found in them, but not that many. Therefore, magic is much lower. Also, as I want for my current game play purposes, gems are very rare. Of course, this also implies that magic will continually gradually decline (though will persist for a long time, as it would take a long time to completely work out gem deposits and also as gems become rarer, they will be used less as they're more valuable. Maybe wizards are trying to research a way of using gems of slightly lesser quality?).
Yes, all gem mines are strictly controlled by the government (one government or another that is). Regarding a wizard taking over a mine and building a fortress - if he can do this and establish himself in enough power to stop a neighbouring kingdom from defeating him then by definition he is a government (though there is a possibility of a wizard finding a new and minor isolated deposit of gems).
Regarding governments regulating sale of gemstones. They didn't before I read your post but they do now. This means working (even temporarily) for a government has an added perk if you're a wizard. I like the idea of having to check in your gemstones before you enter. Of course, if you're good at bluffing you might be able to persuade the guard they were just high quality ornamental gems (particularly if disguised in a ring or suchlike).
It makes a lot of sense that kingdoms would stockpile gems for war. It also means that wars are some of the few times when the two power of magic is unveiled.
Better mining technology. I hadn't even considered this, but it seems like an eminently plausible idea. I think I'll have to research mining a bit.
All wizards are master jewellers. Yes and no. Certainly all wizards would be expert at identifying gems but I don't see that it would necessarily follow that they would all be expert craftsmen at cutting them/putting them in jewellery etc. (though they might well have some minor skills at this). This would take a lot of time which they could be devoting to studies. Some probably would be of course, so the point about any jeweller being potentially a wizard is true, and one I haven't been making as much of as I could in my world. This decision is actually represented (partially) in my guild system. The two obvious guilds for a wizard to join (if he joins a guild) are the wizard's guild and the jeweller's guild. Both of them of course require certain skills etc. and you need to work your way up from apprentice etc. which takes some devotion. The jeweller's guild gives you quite a lot of bonuses with regarding purchasing gems at lower prices and also bonuses on rarity searches. On the other hand, the wizard's guild gives you things directly related to spell craft such as the possibility of learning spells of other races, more mana as well as more prestige amongst wizards.
The black market. Yes, definitely. The rarity rules incorporate buying things on the black market and if you do this you essentially double your chance (sometimes more, sometimes less) of finding something. Cooperating between a wizard and a thief in a party can be very useful. Buying things on the black market can cause a loss of honour for honourable characters (honour system is quite complex and I won't go in to it here).
I like the idea that suspicious governments might try to track "civilian" wizards purchasing top gems. I can think of missions based around one gem-poor country trying to purchase gems subtly in other countries in preparation for a war with a neighbouring gem-poor country. Go to Comment
Wow - lots and lots of good ideas! I definitely like the idea about uncut gems not giving as much mana as cut ones; perhaps 20-25% or something sounds about right. Another possibility you could have with lots of gems together (which could be used in conjunction with or instead of the original suggestions) would be problems with resonance. Presuming the means of channeling magic through/out of gems is something to do with the crystal structure vibrating (as Manfred was saying), if you have a large number of gems together you could accidentally cause them to resonate, with unpredictable results. The situation would be even worse with uncut gems, as due to the irregularities they would resonate at a variety of different frequencies. An unskilled wizard who tried to cast a spell in a gem mine, therefore, would probably just set off a huge magical explosion. Naturally, better wizards would be better at avoiding this, but there will always be some fundamental limitations (imposed by Fourier theory, if nothing else) in how accurately you can "tune in" to the gem you want to use, so there should always be some risk if there are too many gems (I'm talking in the 100s here).
The idea of mines being the haunt of magical creatures is also brilliant. Presumably miners would have developed techniques of dealing with them, and would treat them like any other risk, but to non-miners, dealing with them would seem very dangerous. The gems attracting magical creatures would only prevent stock-piling in certain worlds, depending on how big a threat these are. In mine, in the majority of the kingdoms the land is very well pacified and people worry about monsters attacking about as much as 19th century Europeans worried about wolves and bears. It would probably stop a stock pile in a frontier region though.
Manfred, I love the society of Simple wizardry!
The royal regalia would indeed be a source of real power. Probably only a king (or an extremely wealthy lord) could afford to have flawless gems as jewellery, given how valuable they are to wizards. Though he couldn't use them (unless he was a wizard himself), he could get his court wizard to imbue spells in them, for one off use in case of emergencies. A crown with five gems might well have: Diamond - very powerful shield; Ruby - very powerful fireball; Emerald - "Benevolent Aura"; Sapphire - arc lightning and Pearl - "Water of Life" (powerful healing spell). He might also wear a ring inset with "True Sight" or "See truth" or the like. It would make assassination considerably harder. It would also mean the crown jewels would be far more valuable than they are normally.
Regarding stockpiling and the comparisons with nukes - yes, there is certainly a comparison with the general idea, but the gems (even in large quantities) don't give that sort of power (at least in my system). This is because the gems are used as components in spells rather than just for blasting pure energy at people, and even the most powerful spells don't let you destroy a city - they might let you blast a breach in a wall or obliterate a company of cavalry, but that is all (having a lot of gems just lets you do this more times, and more frequently). A powerful, developed kingdom with lots of gems, fighting one with no magic would be like 1850 European technology fighting 1300 European technology. As a result, in my world there is colonialism but no mutually assured destruction.
Another thing of course - remember spells only produce short-term affects. In other words, no matter how many gems/mana you have, you can't wrap yourself in shields the whole time. This means even the best wizard is vulnerable to a surprise attack - one arrow can kill them as fast as anyone else. Gems also don't let you cast spells any faster. My PCs once took down a powerful wizard (much to my annoyance, as it meant I suddenly had to improvise a new plot!) who was supposedly impossible for them to kill by simultaneous attacks and distractions from all directions. Though he killed a couple of them, he could focus and cast a spell one way and look behind him at the same time.
Just had another thought. One minor thing that could limit the use of magic in warfare is the matter of trust - you have to trust your wizards quite a lot before you start handing them out clusters of diamonds. Perhaps there might be only a few who were trusted with the more powerful ones, while the majority of wizards just used onyx, amber and the like to perform minor battlefield roles (fireballs, scrying, etc.) These few major wizards would (i) be key to a battle and thus have to be very well protected and (ii) incredibly useful as traitors.
Strolen, yes it makes much more sense for wizards to have their gems in wands/rings etc. It would stop any scrabbling around in a bag to find the right gem. Not anyone can learn wizardry (though I guess you could change that if you wanted). Gems can't make up for lack of skill - they make up for lack of power. If you don't know any powerful fire spells, rubies won't help you cast them - all you'll be able to do is drain them for mana. An experienced mage with no gems could thus probably beat a novice one with lots just because the older ones knows far more spells.
Actually, this makes the Society of Simple Wizardry have even more potential. Spared of the need to look for gems, learn jewellery skills etc., its members have more time to learn spells. A mage in the Society would specialise in knowing comparitively minor, little-known spells to counter the more powerful ones cast by gems. Though they would still be able to be defeated by a gem-using mage of equivalent level, they would probably have an advantage against the same mage if, for some reason, he was bereft of gems.
"Can any gem restore any mana lost from any spell in the wizard?" Yes. Personal mana is non-domain specific. If you use it, any gem can restore it (though it is, of course, better to use the gems as components).
Manfred yes, you're right: amber and jade aren't linked to anything good. Amber is the secondary gem of power (minor shields, minor summonings, detect magic, etc.) and jade isn't linked to anything - it just gives you a pittance of mana.
Yes, choosing gems is very much a challenge to pick the right ones. The decisions also come in to choosing which spells to learn as well. After all, do you choose a powerful spell that, due to the rarity of its gem components you'll only be able to cast a couple of times a year, or do you choose to learn a much weaker spell can be used all the time? Most medium level wizards end up specialising in a 2-3 of the 8 domains (for the more powerful spells) as it is really unfeasibly for mages below the most powerful and wealthiest to consistently find and buy gems in all the domains. Go to Comment
As the PCs travel the road, right after a bend they hear a sharp whistle and call: "Heeey, not so lazy, move your asses!" It is a large man that calls, and there are unwilling workers that listen. A small company, 10-15 men work on the road, push boulders aside, dig up roots from under the road, etc. The large man that shouted turns to you, smiles fast and mutters something under his breath, sounds like cursing some lazy worker. "Where does the road bring you from, travellers?" And does a little small-talk.
And what is really happening? A group of bandits is 'adapting' the road for shady purposes. The road will not be wider, but tighter, with enough cover around (and a few traps perhaps), and will become an ideal spot for ambushing travellers or entire caravans. The bandit leader wants them all to appear harmless. The 'lazy worker' he cursed was actually a guard that should give warning before any travellers come around (fallen asleep). Not surprisingly, the boss may decide for an ambush even now.