Music as a form of offensive magic

"Looking at the clean shatter with surrounding structural damage, I'd say it was most likely a bass with mezzo-soprano backup, possibly accompanied by a skilled bassist."


Anyone who has listened to a skilled musician knows that there is some form of magic there. A magic that, try though we have, has not been properly represented in Roleplaying games. Here is an attempt to change that.

For the purposes of this, types of music can be broken down into a number of different types:

Vocals: The abilities of a mage-singer differ depending on whether they are primarily a bass or soprano. (while there are many more types, these are the two significant ones for our purposes)

Bass singing is powerful, carrying the force of a wrecking ball in some cases. It can be hard to be accurate with, and even in the best cases causes a large amount of collateral damage. A bassist may not be able to pinpoint a glass to shatter, but would shatter the table it was on, possibly with some of the chairs.

Sopranos lack much area of effect, but are capable of punching through very tough materials. Whereas bass singing is like a wrecking ball, soprano is like a arrow. A skilled soprano is actually capable of punching through metal.

String: The lute, guitar, fiddle, cello and many more fall into this category. There are too many to get very specific, but a few deserve special note.

Most string instruments, when used offensively, are capable of slicing things to shreds. Each note may cause very little damage, but it is when a song is played that the damage becomes worrisome. Often by the end of the first chorus, the object in question has sustained notable damage, and small objects can be broken by this point. A long, fast song can be horribly devastating.

Fiddles and other string instruments played with a bow are slightly different, as they don't operate by individual plucked notes. Instead, they are almost a continuous wave. When played, they build a sort of momentum, the slicing effects getting more and more effective the longer the instrument is played without stopping. However, if the player stops even for a moment, their momentum is lost. The baseline damage for these instruments is lower than that of plucked instruments, but they are capable of devastating power if played long enough.

Woodwind: Flutes, oboes and their ilk would fall into this category. While they are often of little effect on their own, they become significant when played along with another instrument. (Not necessarily by the same player, simply supporting another instrument.) They seem to magnify the effects of both instruments, and even the damage that this type does is the same as the supported type.

Brass: This is the domain of trumpets, tubas and piccolos. Brass instruments possess a piercing note that carries unusually far, though they tend to be a little inaccurate at closer ranges. Generally, the deeper the note, the wider the area of effect and the less damage to an equivalent area. (i.e. a tuba could cover a large area, but the amount of damage inflicted on a square inch would be much less than if that same spot was hit with a piccolo, though the piccolo would likely only hit the one spot.)

Percussion: The domain of drums and xylophones. For causing damage to an inanimate object, there is nothing better than a good, big drum. The effects on living things is notable, but usually limited to causing them to fall down when the ground beneath them begins to shake. Primarily, percussion instruments are best described as sonic siege engines, they can blow through a wall much easier than a person, much like a battering ram.

Other: There are other instruments that don't really fit in the other categories, such as bagpipes, accordions and pianos.

Bagpipes are a terrifying thing to hear, whether or not the user is any good. Only a skilled user can bring out the magic in them, though. A very hard instrument to learn, it is nonetheless quite powerful if used properly. Sometimes referred to as a 'Hydra call' it's capable of lashing out in multiple directions at the same time. Also notable is the fact that the damage it causes is a blend of crushing and slicing damage. A skilled user can keep many foes at bay, and if he focuses on one or two actually push them around at his will. The biggest weakness of this weapon is that any damage whatsoever to the bag will effectively ruin it, at least until repaired.

Accordions are a peculiar instrument that rarely sees much use in combat, generally due to their size. When used, they produce a large area of slicing damage. The major problems are the size and, as with the bagpipes, a single blow in the main body of the instrument and it's ruined.

Pianos and other keyboards deserve special mention. Generally stationary, the only time these take to the battlefield is when the cause is enough for the equipment to be hauled by horses, generally during a time of battle. A skilled pianist is capable of choosing many of the aspects of the damage of the instrument, from area of effect to type of damage. It is the versatility of the instrument that makes it so useful.
The Pipe Organ is more powerful yet, and even bulkier than the piano. Generally only brought to the field in a time of war, the effects of a large enough pipe organ can be felt across the entire field.


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Cheka Man

? Responses (8)-8

Goto Author

Very funny and interesting and I really needed a laugh right now.

Goto Author

I have been playing a 4th ed Bard, which is lacking in it's "Bardiness", if you will, and this seems to be EXACTLY the kind of thing it's missing. Well put together. This makes me want to put together a mariachi band hired to exact revenge for others. And it gives new meaning to having a military marching band.

Goto Author

Amusing, though slightly spoony.

Could be useful, though you'd have to pick and choose your settings carefully.

Goto Author

I'm with Siren. This seems almost very good. Definitely amusing and fun read. The concept of these instruments makes one ponder on expanding them further. Some good ideas here!

Goto Author

Interesting idea, but it seems a bit too simple for me. Just having different types of kinetic forces depending on the instrument type just seems underwhelming and overlooks a lot of the amazing subtleties of the magic.

I'd revisit this and expand it past turning instruments into magical artillery.

Goto Author

This one was focusing on using music offensively. I have plans, however vague, for similar subs regarding other forms of acoustic magic.

Goto Author

A very underdone subject. I truly appreciate anything that can help improve bards. A++ !