Sample Eldritch Realms spell: Sending the Library Angel

This is a spell I recently wrote for Eldritch Realms. It’s a prime example of what we mean when we say the magic system is based on period folklore. Let’s jump into the spell and then I’ll explain some of the design decisions behind it.

Sending the Library Angel

Summary: A spirit delivers a short passage from a book to a person you designate.

Science & Degree: Theurgy, third Degree

Prerequisites: The message must be a short passage of pre-existing writing, as from a book or pamphlet. At least seven copies of the text must exist in the world, and the wizard must have one of them.

Aspects: Spirit Magic

Fate Point cost: Always

Preparation: Obtain an Occult Token for the recipient of the message.

Casting: No roll is required to cast the spell, but Scholarship: Overcome may be required to find an appropriate passage from a book.

Effect: When the wizard discovers this spell, she binds an airy spirit called a library angel into a seal, bottle, or other container. She can then command the spirit to deliver a message by exactly reciting a short passage of written text, up to about 25 words, to a person or location within sight, or to whom she has an Occult Token. The range of the spell is unlimited.

Extras: There is a certain type of airy spirit that is intellectual and curious about books. They can often can be found in libraries, flipping through the pages of open books as they read the knowledge within.

All library angels have the power to read and speak any language, but they cannot translate from one language to another. From time to time, they assist mortals if they want to. When a library angel overhears researchers discussing what they are looking for, it can help by nudging the right book so it sticks out a bit on the shelf. It can even go so far as to push a book off the shelf and make it fall open at the exact passage that is most useful.

Each of them has Superb (+5) mastery of one branch very narrow and obscure branch of knowledge, such as “Anglo-Saxon Nobles of Lincolnshire” or “Habits of Yorkshire Werewolves.” You or your fellow players can use a Fate Point to create a story detail to have the angel just happen to have an expertise that overlaps with whatever you need to know.

Termination: After the message is delivered, the spirit returns to the wizard but does not bring a reply or report on success or failure.

Roleplaying Notes: You, the player, don’t have to find an exact text you want your character to send! Just summarize what the message should say, and perhaps describe the source. The GM might call for a Scholarship: Overcome roll to have your character know of a passage that fits the occasion. If you succeed at a cost, the recipient may misinterpret what your wizard meant by that quotation!

If you do want to use a quote from a period source, coming up with the perfect line from Shakespeare or Marlowe can add a lot of atmosphere to the scene, and is often well worth a Fate Point award. Please be sure not distract from the game by searching for one while you should be paying attention to the story. Also, don’t worry too much about the publication date: it’s more important to come up with a quotation that is dramatic or funny than to fret over whether it had been published yet.

Characters in Eldritch Britain are much inclined to use passages from holy books (the Bible, Talmud, or Quran) because, if the recipient is a co-religionist of the caster, they’ll know the quote’s context —probably. Other widely-read religious books include the English Book of Common Prayer and works by Saint Augustine or Thomas Aquinas. Scholarly characters might prefer Plato, Homer, or Ovid. The library angel isn’t picky about what text the message comes from: a bawdy line from The Canterbury Tales or a headline from a pamphlet (the tabloid newspapers of the day) will serve just as well.

Continue reading “Sample Eldritch Realms spell: Sending the Library Angel”

About The Name “Eldritch Realms”

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
 By any other name would smell as sweet.

--William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

Eldritch Realms is the roleplaying game of authentic Renaissance magic, currently in development.

That name started as a working title in the summer of 2016 and it has grown on us ever since. I realize that people who encounter it for the first time might jump to the wrong conclusion about what it means, so it seems to be worthwhile to take a moment to explain why we’ve come to like the name so much, and what it says about the game.

Continue reading “About The Name “Eldritch Realms””

Eldritch Realms featured on Arcane Connection Podcast

Eldritch Realms is featured on this week’s Arcane Connection podcast, which is a podcast primarily about the great fantasy RPG Ars Magica. Hosts (and  Eldritch Realms co-authors) CJ Romer and Tom Nowell interview me for about half an hour about the game: what it’s like, how we got here, and where it’s headed. Give a listen!

Feedback is welcome; if you have any questions or comments you can post them on this blog or use the Contact form.

Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge

I found a lovely web site called Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603, subtitled Elizabethan Commonplaces for Writers, Actors, and Re-Enactors. Just the thing for creating a sense of atmosphere in your Eldritch Realms games! Many thanks to the author, Maggie Pierce Secara, for sharing her work online. The site is also available as a book.

2017 Year-End Update on Eldritch Realms

Here we are at the end of another year. It’s time for me to start communicating more often and in more detail about Eldritch Realms. We have a long way yet to go before we schedule the Kickstarter campaign — I can’t yet predict when that will be — but make no mistake, we have made a lot of progress this year. Read on for details.

Continue reading “2017 Year-End Update on Eldritch Realms”

Double, Double, toil and trouble…

When I posted the 2016 year-end update on Eldritch Realms, I mentioned we were working on the magic rules and they were “firming up.” Frankly, I thought writing the magic rules would be a two or three-month job. It’s hasn’t been. If one thing has been consistent, it that’s the design of the magic system has been one step backward followed by two steps forward. That’s the “toil.”

The “trouble” has been Real Life affecting the development team. I chose to find a new job and that took quite a lot of my time and energy in the springtime. Two developers had real-life concerns pressing enough that they’ve had to leave the project entirely. (We’re still on excellent terms and we hope they’ll have the time to contribute as playtesters.) There have been other personal emergencies of lesser magnitude.

Where that leaves us is at least four months behind the schedule I had planned for 2017. We’ll be working on the rough draft of the rules through the end of the calendar year. I’ll take about a month to collate and lightly edit that rough draft, and then the first round of external playtesting will begin in February 2018. Beyond that, I am reluctant to speculate, but I will say we will be ready for a broader playtest in the summer and I’ll be running some playtest sessions at GenCon 2018.

As to the Kickstarter, that will go live when the rules are finished, tested, and I am confident of their quality. I’m managing the project in such a way that the biggest risks of delays is before the Kickstarter goes live. Before I ask backers to contribute money to publishing this game, we at Shewstone Publishing have to convince ourselves that it will be the best game we can make.

Nothing worthwhile comes without difficulty. Thanks for following us through our early ups and downs.

 

Varieties of Magic in Eldritch Realms

Big news today! My co-authors and I have settled on the sorts of magic that will be in the Eldritch Realms core book. Eldritch Realms is set in Renaissance England, so our priority is to include magic that one encounters in history books about the period. (If you are not familiar with Eldritch Realms yet, it’s the roleplaying game of Elizabethan fantasy that we’re developing — check out the introduction).

Without further ado, here is what the rules will cover:

Alchemy

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f4/Azoth-Fouth_woodcut.jpg?resize=203%2C226&ssl=1Alchemy is the magic of transforming things to a higher state: of purification, refinement, and transcendence. While alchemy employs the paraphernalia of what a modern person would call “chemistry,”  in Eldritch Realms, it is definitely magic. Alchemy is capable of wondrous effects: potions of flight and of invisibility, enchanted armor and weapons, and prophecy through symbolic visions. The ultimate goal of alchemy is to transform the alchemist himself into a a physically, mentally, and spiritually superior person. Alchemy is strongest at spells of health and healing, at making various enchanted tools and weapons, and at granting people extraordinary abilities.

Astrology

The stars influence the fates of men and women, but Renaissance thinkers also strongly believed in individual free will. The predictions of astrology are therefore never perfect, but they can reveal hidden forces at work in the world or foreshadow that a seemingly unremarkable person has a great destiny. In addition to forecasting the future, a magician-astrologer knows how to imbue the power of the stars and planets into talismans that can help a person find fame, wealth, even love; and can protect against both earthly enemies and supernatural curses.

Conjuration

Circletriangle.gifThe world teems with invisible spirits, but whether these are angels, demons, faeries, or something else altogether, no mortal can tell. Conjuration is the science of binding and commanding these spirits and thereby harnessing their powers. Through the spirits, a conjurer can levitate into the air, scry on distant places, deflect musket-balls, or summon a tempest. Yet the spirits obey mysterious rules of their own, so every spell has a weakness that can be used to block or unravel it. A conjurer has a close relationship with a familiar spirit, who acts as the magician’s servant and sometime advisor.

Druidism

Pictures of English History Plate I - Druids, or British Priests.jpg

The magic of the ancient Celtic magicians known as druids still echoes throughout the British Isles. Their magic combines elements of alchemy, astrology, sigils, and conjuration into a hybrid science with a distinctive cultural identity. This is the magic of Merlin from the legend of King Arthur. It excels at shapechanging, illusion, and commanding the elements of nature.

Sigils

Bewcastle Cross, Plate of Runes.jpgFrom the heirogylphic burial spells on ancient Egyptian scrolls, to the runes of the Anglo-Saxons and Danes who settled in early medieval England, to the theurgic inscriptions of medieval Kabbalah and Dr. John Dee’s “angelic language,” magical writing, diagrams, and glyphs have carried power in many lands and cultures. The science of sigils excels all others at creating protective wards. It is also strong at creating long-lasting blessings

Folk Magic

Radiestezija.jpg Magic is not just for learned experts. Practically every village in Eldritch England has a cunning-man or woman, who tells fortunes, makes charms, finds lost property, and cures sick cattle. Folk magic is a hodgepodge of weak but practical spells derived from more formal kinds of magic, imperfectly copied and then mingled with the lore of local herbs and spirits. Folk magic is too weak weak to be playable on its own (unless you like the idea of playing a more limited wizard), but it can be easily combined with any of the sciences of high magic to broaden a wizard’s powers.

Eldritch Realms Will Use the Fate Core Engine

Fate Core System cover
Fate Core System cover

I’m overdue for an update on Eldritch Realms development, so I’ll try to make one that is a bit more substantial. I’m pleased to announce that Eldritch Realms game mechanics will be based on Fate Core!

The design team put a lot of thought into this decision, starting with asking the question, should we use an open game engine or create a new
one from scratch? We looked at several RPG rules engines, some open, and one proprietary. We pretty quickly came to the conclusion that the game will provide a better experience for the players if we base it on an established game engine instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. When we finally get the manuscript finished (remember, 2018 is the target) and launch the Kickstarter, we want our backers to have confidence the game is built on a solid foundation.

You can get a PDF or e-book of Fate Core rules by paying what you want, or you can browse an HTML version of the Fate System Reference Document for free online. To be clear, Eldritch Realms will be a stand-alone game containing everything you need between one set of covers. You will not need a copy of the Fate Core System to play — all the rules will be copied into our rule book, edited to fit our writing style and presentation, with new examples and explanatory text. This is all perfectly legal because Fate Core is licensed under the Open Game License.

Continue reading “Eldritch Realms Will Use the Fate Core Engine”

2016 Year-End Update on Eldritch Realms

Eldritch Realms has taken enough shape that I can start to talk about the production schedule.

The magic rules are firming up. Designing a new magic system out of whole cloth takes time — especially since magic is the centerpiece of this game. I am confident we have a solid foundation in place. Since I have a background with the classic RPG Ars Magica, I want to emphasize that Eldritch Realms‘ magic system is not like Ars Magica. It’s based on the period writings of Renaissance magicians, about whom we know quite a lot (thank you, Mr. Gutenberg!). There are several different styles of magic, which I call “sciences” — used in the archaic sense to mean any organized field of study, not necessarily one as rigorous and formal as what we today call “science.” The three primary sciences are astrology, alchemy, and conjuration. If you want an idea of what a powerful wizard (not a beginning player character!) can do in Eldritch Realms, take a look at Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

A Scene from Act I, Scene 2 (Ferdinand courting Miranda) of Shakespeare's
Illustration by William Hogarth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The whole year of 2017 will be devoted to development. We’re aiming for a closed, invitation-only alpha playtest in the fall of 2017. After that we will revise, hold more public playtests, and repeat for at least half of 2018. Since I am eager to get a paycheck from this game before I have kids and send them to college, I will do my level best to make sure the Kickstarter to produce this game launches before the end of 2018.