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ID: 2294


April 25, 2007, 5:58 am

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The Magic of Art


This is a scroll for posting spells to be used with fantasy art, or just debating possible effects and uses for magic together with art. Come join the creative effort.

What I want here, if possible, is to have a community discussion about the interaction between art and magic. What could happen if we combined magic and art? Would we get enhanced art, or could the magic be art in itself? What magical spells and cantrips would be likely? What clever spells can be devised for use with art? What effects can YOU create for fantasy art?

I mostly came up with ideas for paintings and statues, but there are other kinds of art too…

What would magical art be used for? What would motivate spell casters to imbue their or others’ art with magic? Would it be profit? Desire to excel? Some sinister motive? Or could the motive be noble, for the common good?

I would love for people to present new ideas, cool spells and cantrips for use in fantasy art.  Use the comments for discussion and the scroll to write up spells and cantrips.

An example of use:

Recently the local constabulary of the small town known as High Fendon discovered a weird painting when they entered the local asylum.

No one had heard from the asylum staff in many days, hence the constabulary checked out the building. When the officers entered it, they discovered the air inside was freezing cold. Not only that, but the stairs up to the first floor were completely covered in rime, and as the constables searched the asylum, they found the frozen corpses of the staff and all the inmates in their beds. All but one. As it later turned out, a painting resting on an easel was the cause of it all. A beautiful painting it was; a perfect natural scene depicting a wintry landscape. But a frigid cold emanated from the canvas, covering the frame in a thick layer of frost and spreading throughout the asylum.

Six months earlier a group of adventurers had brought down a power hungry warlock; laid his tower in ashes, brought his dreams to ruin. Deemed too dangerous to keep in jail, the warlock got his tongue cut out and was sentenced by a court to spend the rest of his miserable life rotting in an asylum. So while the peasants rejoiced, the warlock was transported in an enclosed carriage. For a month the inhuman cries of the tongueless mage resounded through the asylum, before, miraculously, the warlock found peace in the working of art. The warlock had been famous for his art, even before his dark reputation grew, and when the warden wanted something, the inmates seldom denied him and lived to tell the tale. Oddly enough, it seemed the warlock put as much passion into painting, as he had previously put into working his devious magic.

By reading the wardens journal, and reconstructing the events in the prison a dedicated group of adventurers were able to chase down the murderous artist, and his body was hanged at the town square, much to the joy of the relieved populace. Thay say the painting is still in there, inside the asylum, and when the moon is full, the mad ghosts of the inmates haunt the region, their spirits bound by the hate captured within the painting. At these times, the townspeople close their doors, and bar their windows, and as the screams echo from the asylum, naught can be heard in town, except the creaking sound of the hangman’s rope

Additional Ideas (21)

Quality enhancing:
This spell simply makes the painting look better than it actually is. The colours seem sharper, there is a definitive 3D effect and the objects seem to have sooo much soul! Everything about this painting appears to be excellent. One could stare at the painting for hours and new details would pop right at you all the time. Amazingly these paintings never grow boring either, and are assured to fetch great prices when sold. (Similar effects apply to other pieces of art)


- Used by an artist on his art. It works whether the art is akin to the imbecilic scribbling of a child, or a true masterpiece. Of course it is way easier to spot an imbued painting when it is truly crap, since the effect wears off whenever the viewer leaves the presence of the art
- Commissioned by a King or High Priest to enhance the frescoes of the palace / temple

2006-02-04 09:23 PM » Link: [2294#11810|text]
This spell should be cast on an appropriate painting depicting a winter landscape. The effect will immediately be felt as the temperature in the vicinity of the painting would drop dramatically. Within a short period of time the frame of the painting and the entire room in which it is placed will become covered with frost. The temperature becomes freezing cold. About 10 degrees fahrenheit / -12 degrees celsius, although the spell caster have in some cases been able to boost the effect for a short period of time.

This is a rare spell rarely witnessed in any painting. In most cases such a painting is considered a curse, though in one reported case a group of adventurers put the painting to good use in a meat storage room.


- Used by a powerful necromancer in his body storage room.
- Used by a famous painter to boost the effect of his painting: "the cold in a womans heart"
- Painted by an asylum inmate or used in another circumstance as a curse

2006-02-04 09:24 PM » Link: [2294#11811|text]
Weather reflection
The weather in the painting subtly change to match that of the local region. If it is winter outside, snow (static and not moving) can be seen in the picture. If it is sunny, it is so in the picture too, and if it is raining, the picture surely will reflect that too. There seems to be no animation in the picture and the scenery will not change before no one is looking.


- Cosmetic effect applied by artists to enhance the painting and increase it's worth

2006-02-04 09:24 PM » Link: [2294#11812|text]
This spell makes statues lifelike and real. Their facial features seem so detailed and the stone feels almost soft to the touch. Sometimes the stone even feels alive, with body temperature and all. The statue will, however, still be rigid and immobile and the perception is but an illusion planted within the head of the beholder / touching person.


- The statues in the King's throne room are imbued with this magic. GM: Those statues look awfully lifelike...
- Used by an artis to make his art more lifelike.
- Placed on the rather immodest statue of a satyr in the personal garden of a particularly lustful Baroness. Stories are circulating amongst her servants about the moans coming from the statue garden late at night

2006-02-04 09:24 PM » Link: [2294#11813|text]
This spell will induce passion and desire within those who view the painting. Their lust will subtly increase and build up momentum, until about ten minutes later, they will be hard pressed to control themselves.

The effect of this painting or statue comes in various nuances. It can affect anyone, but sometimes it only affects men, and at other times it only affects women. The target of the victims' desire can be singular, as in the depicted person, or general, as in every potential sexual partner within reach. Sometimes the spell increase the potency of the male, at other times it only affects his lust. An evil witch might even increase lust, but make the male member temporarily disabled. Nothing quite like that to spoil the day of the gallant paladin come to seduce and defeat her.


- Kept on the wall of the orgy room of an organisation, harem of a ruler or ritual dancing room of a temple
- Cast on the hand painted pages of small erotic booklets sold to the rich and the powerful
- Used on a post card sent to someone an NPC lusts after.

2006-02-04 09:25 PM » Link: [2294#11814|text]
Time Distortion
This spell affects time around the painting in one of several ways. It could slow time, making time pass faster outside the area of effect. As a result the PCs could go to sleep in the big mansion, and when they emerged the next day, an entire month had passed for everyone else. The opposite is also quite possible, making time pass quicker close to the painting. Thus it could come to be that the PCs only find dust, cobwebs and age old relics when they enter their mansion for the first time after they brought home that weird painting from the cronomancer's stronghold.

Another kind of time distortion would be a complete stasis (for X number of years). Time travel could also occur, with the painting in some way shifting everything within the vicinity from age X to age Y based on certain criterias or triggers.

It is important that the painting is relevant to the use. It could not depict just about anything. A time speeding painting could depict a funeral, or death or the future. A time delaying painting could depict youth or birth or even the past.


- The painting serves as a focus for a powerful cronomancer
- A powerful wizard use the painting to slow down time. He is dying and an alchemist is labouring intensely on inventing a cure for his disease

2006-02-04 09:25 PM » Link: [2294#11815|text]
Anyone looking at this painting will feel compelled to give more of his personal fortune, either to the one depicted on the painting or anyone in general. It is not as if some switch is turned on, it just so happens that during the next half hour or so, the one who viewed the painting will feel truly great and in a good mood. He will also feel truly compelled to share any money on his person, whether they are his or not. The effect of this spell is seldom made permanent and the artwork seldom good, as it is used only once by the painter / mage.


- Typically used by a trickster mage-artist, this spell is used to rob wealthy persons of some of their money. As the effect wears off, they usually take off a short time after selling the painting. Depicting the trickster on the painting ensures that he gets the money, but has proved ill advised as any bounty hunters will then have the perfect warrant poster when they hunt him down.

2006-02-04 09:26 PM » Link: [2294#11816|text]
The painting serves as a one way conduit between the painting and the painted location. It either works by touching the painting, or perhaps even by climbing through. The traveller will then arrive on the other side, whether that be within a pocket dimension, another physical location or something else.


- Used by a mage as the only entrance to his hidden chambers in an extra-dimensional location of his making
- Imbued in different frescoes on the walls of the First Temple of the God of Travel

2006-02-04 09:26 PM » Link: [2294#11817|text]
This spell makes those viewing the statue naturally inclined to obey any command made by the depicted person. With time and exposure, the words of the person will seem almost magnetic, their force almost impossible to resist. The affected person will find himself doing anything for the depicted individual. To begin with the affected individual will feel compelled to agree with the depicted in arguments, etc. Then with time the affected will become ever more uncritical towards the demands of the depicted, until after a year he will have little or no personal will left. Kill someone? No problem. Perform sexual favours? Certainly. The effect wears off with time (and no exposure).


· Placed on the statue of the city mayor. He is immensely popular, he always get re-elected and he has a grudge against the PCs...
· Placed on the statuette of the PC's sorcerous wife. Now he will never say no again. Let's go shopping dear...

2006-02-04 09:26 PM » Link: [2294#11818|text]
This spell makes a certain sound play around the piece of art. The sound could be ever present or just played when triggered by a special event.


- An eccentric musician had several translucent glass frogs enhanced with the spell, so that when touched, each of the frogs played a specific note. The glass frogs also had some black iron artifacts visible in their bellies (Small, paper thin, iron notes that vibrated when their sound was triggered).
- A painter had his landscape painting imbued with "lifelike", "weather" and this spell (sound). The sound was the perpetual, soft, splashing of rain. Although generally considered a masterpiece, the artwork always got relocated due to the intensely annoying nature of the sound effect.

2006-02-05 06:02 AM » Link: [2294#11823|text]
This here is the perfect explaination for your Music Box of Mordalin AG. This also makes you wonder what other spells the famous artist/magician used from this list...

2006-02-05 11:03 PM » Link: [2294#11853|text]
Generally placed on the images of battles, whether on large-scale wars or individuals fighting monster, the viewer will feel in awe from the heroic deeds, and be inspired to perform some himself. Works particularly well if the viewer knows the story of the battle. If looking at it for long enough, the viewer may start to heart the sounds of battle, the shouts and horns and clasing weapons, even a vision how it all happened.

- placing such a painting in the soldier's barracks is never a bad idea for the wise king
- nor is the taking of a such banner on the field of battle

Note: victories are usually more inspiring than defeats, and known historical events are much more effective than invented stories (OK, that may be hard to discern sometimes). The effect looses its power rapidly if viewers know or believe the history has been faked.

2006-02-05 06:12 AM » Link: [2294#11825|text]
This idea was inspired by the Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon.

A bit more expensive, but a good investment for the self-confident ruler: requires an already impressive foundation, with rich imagery featuring powerful symbols (like on the Ishtar Gate - lions, dragons and bulls) in breathtaking detail. It is most often placed on entrances. A visible military presence makes the effect even stronger, so anyone trying to invade will have their morale lessened.

Those who want to enter may feel discouraged, and no doubt will feel the power of the place, making them unsure of their own small existence - all a proper feeling for those that meet the great king, or just come to make business. Often, there is less crime around this place.

2006-02-05 06:35 AM » Link: [2294#11826|text]
Mainsail Rune / Chinese Dragon / Artwork
This is a typical piece of art used as a tool, instead of for aesthetic purposes. It enchants the canvas of the mainsail, making it attract more wind, speeding up the vessel. It is a costly and time consuming piece of art that can easily be ruined, and thus it is not overly popular. The few pirate lords who have mages and artists at their disposal do, however, have the means to always stay ahead of the seaborn equivalent of the law.


- Used on the mainsail of an infamous pirate captain's vessel. How can the PCs capture him, when the winds always favour him so!?
- Used on the banner of the king. It is uncanny how the royal banner always flaps in the wind. The side effect is that the king often has a minor cold.

2006-02-05 06:49 AM » Link: [2294#11828|text]
War paint:
This magic is used with body paint and enhances the physical strength and stamina of the painted individual. It also boosts the skill of the user. The ritual involved in the painting does take rather long, and must be performed by someone skilled in the art.

If clothing or armour is worn above the paint, the paint is likely to rub off and the effect will weaken or cease completely.


- Some chieftains of powerful jungle tribes wear this paint before going to battle. Accompanied by their similarily painted champions, this lethal strike group dance naked through the battle with superior stamina and agility, and their war axes cleave a path through the enemy
- Some temple dancers are painted like this before they entertain the faithful with their erotic dance in praise of their god. The graceful movements and extreme skill of these dancers have been known to rouse even the most senile and aged of men.

2006-02-05 10:09 AM » Link: [2294#11836|text]
Used on a painting of a great leader this will imbue a slight reverence/respect for the subject of the painting. It is generally required that the person has heard of the subject and his/her exploits, in passing remarks at the very least. The effects usually last for an extended period of time.


- Used on the statue of the local warlord and placed in the town square. The people actually respect him instead of cursing his name. This is a relatively rare occurance, and one could only assume that this is because he is such a great leader. I mean, he was born a pauper and grew up off of the scraps of that vile Baron Gythis. He then rose up and TRIPLED the size of the Barony and ousted Gythis. He might be taxing us more than Gythis ever did, but he is such a better ruler and needs the money to help get the castle that's going to make us the center of the surrounding areas built.

2006-02-05 07:37 PM » Link: [2294#11847|text]
Paintings with this on them convey a sense of dread. Usually it is just a mild, unnamable fear, but with extended exposure people start jumping at little noises. The effects of it stack up over time, but if you leave the presence of the painting the fear starts lessening, and finally goes away. If someone is locked in a room with a artwork that has this on it, they start to go insane. At first it's just a mild phobia, but soon it gets worse, until the person is clinically insane with the fear of everything.


- Insert statue of a Great Old One here.
- The chairs in the waiting room at the local tax auditor's office.
- The painting of the great warlord that hangs in the Great Hall. He commissioned this painting of him conquering the town about a ten-week afterwards. Needless to say it strikes fear in the hearts of peasants coming in to complain about how much he taxes them.

2006-02-05 07:38 PM » Link: [2294#11848|text]
I have just noticed the "The chairs in the waiting room at the local tax auditor's office." bit. Now that's a good one. :)

2007-04-25 04:19 AM » Link: [2294#26989|text]
The owner of a painting with this on it very rarely wishes to let it go. If the enchantment is weak, the owner just doesn't want to part with it for sentimental reasons, but if it is a strong enchantment, the owner is loathe to let the work out of his presence. People have wasted away, guarding their precious treasure, making sure no one steals it.


- A coin was given to a collector of rare coins. It had both the spendthrift and possessive enchantments on it. Soon he had given away all of his valued treasure, except his most valuable one. The recently minted royal coin. He soon starved to death and the only thing of value found on his person was this coin. The way his corpse clung to it was particularly disturbing and it was buried with him.
- Remember that fluffy, pink teddybear?

2006-02-05 07:43 PM » Link: [2294#11849|text]
Okay, I know none of these are my ideas. But I remember reading all of these at some point, and they all use magic and art together, in some way shape or form.

The Paintings of Murcus Diellus
Drum of the Infernal March
The Art of Healing
Statues of Calvinus
Hammet's Guitar

2006-02-05 09:42 PM » Link: [2294#11852|text]
Imbue Tattoo
Tattoos have long been used as deeply personal markings, often revealing that which the wearer is most devoted to. Some magi and shamans are able to create tattoos that not only mark their wearer as a member of their order, but also give powers reserved only for those who are so marked.


- Power imbued. The wearer of the tattoo is able to use exclusive magic by drawing it out from the mystical mark. By binding the power to the tattoo, a magic order can ensure that only their members can use these spells. Depending on the tattoo and power, the mark may disappear after a set number of uses.
- Summon spirit. Shamans who have close ties to the ethereal realm can bind a tattoo to a spirit. Thus, the wearer of the tattoo is able to call upon mystical creatures to aid him. These can range from airy spirits like poltergeists and wisps, to more beastly souls such as ethereal salamanders (think FF-style summon magic).

2006-02-07 10:03 AM » Link: [2294#11922|text]
A book that follows the subject

On this subject is a work of fiction that I have liked a great deal.

The Golden Key (DAW by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, Kate Elliott )
ISBN: 0886778999

This is a fantasy books that is not your classic fantasy. It is not psuedo european para feudal tolkein inspired. It is very rennaisaunce in nature, Italian to be sure. The setting is interesting and parts of it are well fleshed out. The reason it is mentioned here is that it centers around painting.

Paintings are used to mark contracts and marriages, as well as other important events. Painting are used for formal conformation and witness of events. This is an important part of their culture.

All magic, for the Italian like culture is performed by "Limers", painters of the proper bloodline to work magic. These limers are employed by the crown and other nobles to make sure the city is maintained. By properly painting images (and adding certain hidden elements in the painting edges or background), they can make these images binding in many ways. So a marriage can be "blessed", the two bound together in love, by a proper limer making a formal portrait with the traditional scrolled edges (which contain glyphs and patterns for love, prosperity, and fertility).

Other magics seen in the book includes limiting of people's mind (so a noble with a formal portrait with traditional scrolling edges, can be bound to loyalty), a Dorian Gray like portrait, a person bound into a painting (so the person can sometimes see out of the painting), and a contract binds.

It is a good book with a real twist in the story.

2006-02-11 12:09 PM » Link: [2294#12066|text]

"We must be feeling very mischievous today, sir. Very entertaining, sir."

The effect of this rare enchantment is a momentarily confusion, or short loss of concentration, just an unrelated thought coming up in one's mind... the affected person could thus trip on the carpet, or loose the thread in their argument. Strangely enough, the chance is stronger according to the concentration the person devotes to his or her task. This is ideal for embarassing new and inexperienced personnel, who drop the plate on the first way to their master; or servants that take their job too seriously. Careless people that just stroll by won't be affected, and old butlers that know the house by heart seem to be quite resistant.

Most fitting for this magic are butt-ugly paintings, erotic works of any quality and explicitness, though in one case was used a stuffed wild boar with a particularly stupid look.

While more or less silly, this can be very useful against thieves and other shady characters. The smart owner will organize the surroundings appropriately, like putting the old suite of armor nearby, ready to crash loudly and alert the guards. Even skilled thieves can fall to the subtle power, so beware.

2007-04-25 07:15 AM » Link: [2294#26993|text]
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Comments ( 11 )
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Ancient Gamer
February 4, 2006, 21:49
Remember: Put the spell effects in the scroll below. I provided a number of sample effects.

If you got new ideas or comments, I would love to hear about them!

Remember that effects could be stacked!

Thanks to: My roleplaying group, manfred and Scrasamax
Ancient Gamer
February 5, 2006, 6:05
Power level:
Some users will notice that some of the effects are on an entirely other power level than the others. While I encourage GMs not to overdo the use of these effects, I still think that we should allow such effects in here. But please do remember: In the long run it is the innocent effects that will be most usable. The powerful effects will be hard to use more than once or twice and will be difficult to stack with other effects.
Voted manfred
February 5, 2006, 6:43
Indeed, some are a bit too powerful, but most of these effects can be scaled down as desired.

I think this will make a good scroll!
Voted Kinslayer
April 30, 2006, 23:02
Rather than a magical effect to enhance art, perhaps the art itself could be the source of the magic. For example the entasis technique used on the Parthenon to make it visually more impressive. Perhaps echoing EchoMirage, one Midian player hid some of his more dangerous magical spell effects in plain sight in his gallery, such as a summoning circle incorporated into the border of a painting, depicting the area or beast summoned.

Continuing the 'fear' angle, a noble or other authority could have the audience chamber (or a waiting room) adorned with art that overtly looks rather tame, but has subtle 'wrong' elements--such as some of the cherubim bearing small fangs--or has a subliminal effect--e.g. the pattern of the lillies spells out "confess" where a casual glance would never detect that hidden message. In sci-fi or modern settings, this can be enhanced with television or computer screens with subliminal messages, or hidden in the background music.

Speaking of hidden messages, steganography is a very old method of hiding messages in plain sight. Is it any less of an illusion if you use methods other than overt Gandalf-style spellcasting?

One could argue that the ultimate sign of an artist's skill is that he or she can evoke an emotive state in the viewer. In a game setting, controlling minds and inflicting emotions certainly falls into magic's purview.
Barbarian Horde
June 21, 2006, 17:08
the cool waters-landscape art work images of people coming through the longer you stare at it the more images
July 18, 2006, 14:29
BUMPING original inspiration for The Tenebrists!
Voted Mourngrymn
July 31, 2006, 13:50
The use of this is always nice, as I was in a game where one of the magic items was a blank canvas and another a canvas with the perfect image of a noble man. To paint oneself on the canvas would ensure long life, but at a cost. After a certain period of time one would be pulled in to the canvas to stay until someone painted a portrait of themself or someone else on the blank canvas. Which in turn the old canvas would go blank again.
Voted Eclipse
April 24, 2007, 16:52
Love the minor magics
Voted valadaar
April 24, 2013, 12:58
This is great discussion jam packed with ideas and potential!

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