Thursday, October 20, 2016

Magic of the North


A bit ago I made a spell/item list based on Sumerian mes. It seemed well received. Or at least my two readers and the horde of Russian spam bots that come here didn't complain. One even requested that I make one based on the Havamal.

As that sort of deal has been my focus the last seven years in Legends, I took to it eagerly. What follows is a spell list based on a paraphrased version of Benjamin Thorpe's translation of the Runatal section of the Havamal. Really the only thing I took out was a list of names. I've also tried to keep it system neutral, but occasionally I had to dip into specifics. Shouldn't be too hard to venture into another system of your choosing.

Edit: This site can't deal with a table format to save its, or mine, life. The source material will be in italics below, followed by related fluff and mechanics in bold immediately after. Let's hope it handles font coloring better.

Edit 2: Nope.

I know that I hung,
on a wind-rocked tree,
nine whole nights,
with a spear wounded,
and to Odin offered,
myself to myself;
on that tree,
of which no one knows
from what root it springs.

Bread no one gave me,
nor a horn of drink,
downward I peered,
to runes applied myself,
wailing learnt them,
then fell down thence.

Then I began to bear fruit,
and to know many things,
to grow and well thrive:
word by word
I sought out words,
fact by fact
I sought out facts.

The only method to learn the charms is a rather dangerous one. To reach the proper mental state in which the charms can be learned, one must be on the verge of death. 

Hunger crazed, throat burning; the Seeker gains a vision of the void between worlds as they teeter on the brink of life and death. 

Should their mind be open, and their will strong even now, knowledge of the charms will forever be burned in their mind. 

Runes thou wilt find,
and explained characters,
very large characters,
very potent characters,
which the great speaker depicted,
and the high powers formed,
and the powers’ prince graved:

The charms are not single runes, rather certain combinations of runes strung together, and given power through voice and will. “Rune songs” are not an inaccurate description. Accurate, some would say. 

Knowest thou how to grave them?
knowest thou how to expound them?
knowest thou how to depict them?
knowest thou how to prove them?
knowest thou how to pray?
knowest thou how to offer?
knowest thou how to send?
knowest thou how to consume?

‘Tis better not to pray
than too much offer;
a gift ever looks to a return.
‘Tis better not to send
than too much consume.
So Thund graved
before the origin of men,
where he ascended,
to whence he afterwards came.

Those that sing the charms should know their lore, as knowledge is important to the caster, and a measure of their strength. Intelligence or similar attribute is used in casting. 

Though take heed. Casting too much, too often, has its own dangers, and can lead to harm.

Those songs I know
which the king’s wife knows not
nor son of man.
Help the first is called,
for that will help thee
against strifes and cares.

Provides help in passing a skill check. 

For the second I know,
what the sons of men require,
who will as leeches live.

Sung over a wounded patient this charm causes their injuries heal as though a significant time has passed. 

For the third I know,
if I have great need
to restrain my foes,
the weapons’ edge I deaden:
of my adversaries
nor arms nor wiles harm aught.

When sung in battle, this charm dulls the edges and weakens the wood of any weapon that the singer’s voice touches. The charm reduces the weapon’s dice value by one category (d8 becomes d6, d6 becomes d4, d4 becomes cleaved) 

For the forth I know,
if men place
bonds on my limbs,
I so sing
that I can walk;
the fetter starts from my feet,
and the manacle from my hands.

Should the singer be tied up, this charm unties the knots. Should they be chained, the chains slide off as if too big. 

For the fifth I know,
I see a shot from a hostile hand,
a shaft flying amid the host,
so swift it cannot fly
that I cannot arrest it,
if only I get sight of it.

Sung at the beginning of a fight, the charm allows the singer to attempt to snatch arrows or other missile weapons out of the air for the duration of the fight. This being impossible otherwise, of course. 

For the sixth I know,
if one wounds me
with a green tree’s roots;
also if a man
declares hatred to me,
harm shall consume them sooner than me.

A song of counterspelling. The number of dice used to to empower this song counteracts the dice of the other spell. "Green tree's roots" is poetic wording for "spells." Not fluff, actual thing. 

For the seventh I know,
if a lofty house I see
blaze o’er its inmates,
so furiously it shall not burn
that I cannot save it.
That song I can sing.

This song diminishes all flames within the area of effect by dice applied. 1 die = camp fire; 3 dice = house fire; 5 dice = forest fire. Adjust as seems appropriate.  

For the eighth I know,
what to all is
useful to learn:
where hatred grows
among the sons of men –
that I can quickly assuage.

While this charm is sung, the singer knows who seeks to do them harm, and their location.

For the ninth I know,
if I stand in need
my bark on the water to save,
I can the wind
on the waves allay,
and the sea lull.

When sung on a boat, this song calms the seas, driving away any storm. On land the sea calming obviously doesn’t work, but it could probably clear the skies of any storm. 

For the tenth I know,
if I see troll-wives
sporting in air,
I can so operate
that they will forsake
their own forms,
and their own minds.

When in the presence of spirits, be they nature or dead, this song pains their ears, driving them off. Similar to the "turn undead" ability in that one series of popular pen and page games. 

For the eleventh I know,
if I have to lead
my ancient friends to battle,
under their shields I sing,
and with power they go
safe to the fight,
safe from the fight;
safe on every side they go.

The song dons mystical armor upon the singer and his allies (worth about a leather's measure; or based on the dice used), for the length of one battle. 

For the twelfth I know,
if on a tree I see
a corpse swinging from a halter,
I can so grave
and in runes depict,
that the man shall walk,
and with me converse.

A two parter. First the runes are carved upon the forehead of a corpse, then the rune song is sung. The corpse then gains the ability to speak as it had in life; prone to the same temperament and truthiness. 

For the thirteenth I know,
if on a young man
I sprinkle water,
he shall not fall,
though he into battle come:
that man shall not sink before swords.

Target of the singer gains immunity to iron until the end of the next combat.

For the fourteenth I know,
if in the society of men
I have to enumerate the gods,
Æsir and Alfar,
I know the distinctions of all.
This few unskilled can do.

Should the singer seek knowledge, they have but to sing this rune charm. As the words echo in distance, a vision comes upon the singer in relation to his inquiry. 

For the fifteenth I know
what the dwarf Thiodreyrir sang
before Delling’s doors.
Strength he sang to the Æsir,
and to the Alfar prosperity,
wisdom to Hroptatýr.

Bestows aid in passing an attribute test. Strength, wisdom, whatever you're using. 

For the sixteenth I know,
if a modest maiden’s favour and affection
I desire to possess,
the soul I change
of the white-armed damsel,
and wholly turn her mind.

The listener to this song becomes enchanted with the singer. “Charmed”, some would say. “In love”, others would describe it.

For the seventeenth I know,
that that young maiden will
reluctantly avoid me.
These songs, Loddfafnir!
thou wilt long have lacked;
yet it may be good if thou understandest them,
profitable if thou learnest them.

Where the 16th bestowed love, the 17th reverses this, bestowing loathing upon the listener.

For the eighteenth I know
that which I never teach
to maid or wife of man,
(all is better
what one only knows.
This is the closing of the songs)
save her alone
who clasps me in her arms,
or is my sister.

A song of oath making. Any oath sworn to and agreed upon in this song may not be broken, least doom fall upon the breaker. "Clasps me in her arms" and "my sister" refers to a woman he trusts. Don't get weird with it. Or do, I ain't the cops. 

Now are sung the
High-one’s songs,
in the High-one’s hall,
to the sons of men all-useful,
but useless to the Jötun’s sons.

Hail to him who has sung them!
Hail to him who knows them!
May he profit who has learnt them!
Hail to hose who have listened to them!

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Magic of the Ancients


I've recently engaged in a fireside chat with +Josh over at Rise Up, Comus where we yelled in agreement at each other while gesturing wildly, and generally annoying delighting those around us. Booze was involved. Our lament was just the gods awful handling of magic items in Pathfinder. Buying some magic boots? Congrats, you've just ruined the economy of the small town of earning-three-copper-per-day peasants. That magic item merchant is now probably richer than the local lord.

You monster.

Either way, that led to this article, which put our thinkering better than my rambling ever could. The point of it is magic items should be rare. What got me out of his wordsmithing is the idea of a limited number of spells in existence. This leads to the further exclusiveness of wizardry.

I like that.

It also reminded me of the Sumerian me (pronounced [mɛ]). Me were spells handed down by Sumerian gods in ancient history mythology, deemed necessary for humanity and civilization; some good, some bad, all necessary. The thing about them though, was that, while spells, they also had a physical form, and there were a set number of them. At some point Inanna takes several from a drunk Enki, and shows them off to the people of her city.

Anyway, I made a spell list and a pseudo class out of them. Fluff and details follow.


Exactly nine hundred spells (nine copies each) were handed down from the gods to aid in the crafting of civilization. Once given to humanity, the gods retreated, allowing humanity to rise and fall as it saw fit, under it's own will.

While some are obviously more useful than others, the gods felt them important for the preservation of society - both the good and bad aspects. They, in their unknowable wisdom, saw the destruction of cities just as important as a strong leader to hold the cities together. It was for the humans to decide.

With such a limited number of spells given to the Ens - thems who cast the spells - the society that inevitably grew around them has to budget their resources heavily. Each new member to the society must be thoroughly groomed and, due to the nature of the mes, can only can enter into the society once a former member dies. Further causing trouble, is the fact that a large portion of the spells have been lost through out the ages. Of the original 100, only 64 (listed below) remain with at least one copy still intact.

You see, in order to even cast a me, you must first have the me of enship cast upon you. This casting rewrites your mind and makes you immune to mes, thus allowing you to handle and speak the spells without being altered by them yourself.

Yes, the mes are both physical AND spoken. Appearing as small tablets, covered in the script of the ancients, mes take physical form until read and known by the En, at which point the me absorbs (for lack of a better word) into the caster and awaits casting. Once spoken, the words will slowly begin to reform back into a small clay tablet. Save for the Mes of Enship. Once cast upon the target, they bound with them, and are only reclaimable upon the target's death, or the mes replacement by a higher one.

You can tell an En by the marks the mes leave upon them while within them.

The spells work not by affecting reality, but by affecting the mind of the target and, as such, resisting them is fairly difficult.

The complete list of  surviving mes follows. Their names are often poetical, and sometimes become lost in translation from the ancient tongue.

Mes of Enship

Enship - Once cast upon a target, it allows them the ability to learn and cast mes.
Ishib (a priestly office) - Advances target to second level of Enship
Lumah (a priestly office) - Advances target to third level of Enship
Guda (a priestly office) - Advances target to forth level of Enship
"Divine lady" (a priestly office) - Advances target to fifth level of Enship

Mes of Craft

Art of metalworking - The knowledge of alloy creation becomes known
Scribeship - Bestows literacy
Craft of the smith - Bestows knowledge of smithing
Craft of the leatherworker - Bestows knowledge of leatherworking
Craft of the builder - Bestows knowledge of Architecture and Engineering
Craft of the basket weaver - Bestoys knowledge of basketry and pottery
Art - The target is flooded with inspiration in crafting art
Music - As art, but with music
Lilis (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of lilis is gained
Ub (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of ub is gained
Mesi (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of mesi is gained
Ala (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of ala is gained
Guslim (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of guslim is gained
Lamentation - The artist is filled with sadness, and is unable to produce any work

Mes of Altering Tongue

Truth - Restricts the target to only speaking the Truth
Law - Target is filled with absolute knowledge of the Law. However, it becomes all they can speak.
Falsehood - Bounds the target to speak only in falsities.

Mes of the Heart

Heroship - Bestows upon the target a feeling of bravery and desire to do right
Fear - Fills a target with foreboding sense of fear
Terror - As fear, but for a crowd of targets
Peace - Fills the target with a sense of calmness.
Strife - As Peace but, you know, the opposite.
Weariness - Drains the same amount of energy from a target as a hard days march.
Straightforwardness - Banishes confusion from the mind of the target.
Enmity - Fills the target full of enmity for a stated thing.
Rejoicing of the heart - Fills the listener with
The troubled heart - Sends the listener into crippling sorrow

Mes of Person Change

Kurgarra - Removes the sex of the target.
Girbadara - Renders the target infertile.
Sexual intercourse - Returns natural functions to the target.
Prostitution - Makes the target more inclined to act against their morals when coin is involved.
Holy purification - Burns poisons and diseases from target, as well as rids of any demonic influence.
Attention - Causes target to automatically succeed on all perception based checks.
Libel - Turns the listener to be in conflict with written information about them. Can cause serious problems.

Mes of Governing

The exalted and enduring crown - Marks the target as an authority figure. Their authority is known to all who look upon them.
The throne of kingship - Those in power are known to be prone to corruption. This me reminds them of the responsibilities they bear, making them resistant to corruption.
The exalted sceptre - Fills the listener with the word of the gods, preparing them for service as clerics.
The royal insignia - Bestows the royal insignia upon the skin of the target, signifying them as a vassal of the royal family.
The exalted shrine - Sends the listener into a manic religious fervor.
Shepherdship - Bestows command over animals to the target
Kingship - Bestows command over men to the target
Lasting ladyship - Turns those of ill repute against their ways, reforming their nature.

Mes of Divine

"hierodule of heaven" - Allows the target to host a possession by the gods.
Eldership - Gifts the target with a life time of wisdom and experience. May cause mental side effects due to memories not their own.
Descent into the nether world - Allows the target to enter the land of the dead, to see and experience that which is beyond the veil. This trip is purely mental, though the body will move and react to what the mind is seeing.
Ascent from the nether world - Draws the target back to the world of the living.
Judgment - A mark of the target's crimes grows upon their skin
Decision - Gives the target a vision of the consquences of their possible decision
Counsel - Induces a vision in the target where they hold counsel with spirits, who provide wise advise.
Godship - Drains the corporal properties from a person for a stretch of time. Context of the name suggests "spirit hood"
The cult chamber - Has a chance of granting a vision based audience with a god. Not always a sure thing.
Sagursag (a eunuch, entertainers related to the cult of Inanna) - Bestows the target with knowledge of the holy myths, as well as the acting ability needed to portray them.

Mes of War

The battle-standard - The target glows bright with holy power, encouraging allies who fight within proximity to them.
The flood - The target errupts in a fountain of their own blood, those near them are burned as though by acid. While the flood is known to destroy, it is also known to replenish the fields. The ground covered in this blood becomes extremely fertile.
Weapons - Grants knowledge of weapon usage
The destruction of cities - Fills those who hear it with a desire to turn away from their lives, and go else where. Farmers leave their fields. Wives leave their families. Neighbors turn cruel to one another. Blood betrays blood. The effect spreads like wildfire via contact, effecting any who claim membership to the town in which the me was spoken.
Power - Increases the physical abilities of the target.
Victory - Bestows the hearer with unusual luck in their tasks.
Wisdom - The target gains strategic insight to the current situation.


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