Monday, July 9, 2018

The Three Forms of Magic Weapon, part 2 -- Temples

In my first post I talked about Occultum in detail, especially about the esoteric but fundamentally predictable properties. Occultum is the equivalent of magic Lego, many parts all interlocking, but fundamentally in a predictable fashion. Oh, and hideously expensive. Temples are different. They are much more "traditional" magic items, but have an immense array of potential forms. A few magic items can be created as either Temples or through judicious application of Occultum. For example, an alloy of rare earth metals and Occultum will lock onto the nearest large magnetic field, acting in a similar manner to an Immovable Rod. However, the strangest and rarest of magic items go beyond what can normally be achieved with Occultum. Strange alloys and weird substances merely bend the rules a little. Temples break those rules.

Temples - Brick and Mortar, Soul and Story

Not just this kind of temple, credit Grady Frederick

This kind of temple, credit Jeff Chen

Weapons and Armour

Calling a freshly-forged blade something pretentious like “Heartripper” is the equivalent of a drilled-out starter-pistol: it's dangerous, but unreliably so, and mostly used for the purposes of intimidation. Most weapons are given names only after years of heroic action, as a label and a reminder. Most people don't realise why, but misnaming a weapon is seen as very poor etiquette, primarily amongst the nobility. Names hold power, and the tools of war are not to be labelled lightly.

But what has this got to do with magic items. It stems back to the nature of spells themselves, as the alternate forms of spirits, demons, angels, and other, even stranger things. Some are given homes in corpses, others construct bodies of light and flame, while others still exist solely in the minds of Wizards and Warlocks. The barest few are capable of existing in their true form, and almost invariably are revered as gods. However, this isn't a binary, there's a spectrum from the humblest of Magic Missile to the grandest of Outer Deities. Whatever the case, most spirits/spells that exist in the material world for any length of time require a vessel. Ideally, it is something they are proud of, something that resembles their true form and purpose. Something that can be worshipped. A Temple.

These Temples are not restricted to physical locations. Certainly, nature spirits will inhabit a grove, and some gods have been domesticated by architecture, but many more will choose a form that allows them to actively participate in the mortal world they are now a part of. Of most interest to many adventurers, offensive and defensive spells will gladly* inhabit a suitable weapon or piece of armour.

Now, suitability is a tenebrous and tenuous concept when it comes to Temple items. However, arms and armour that have survived countless battles and adventures and have triumphed over insurmountable odds are invariably hot property for spirits on the rise. Lower class spells will tolerate merely masterfully created pieces, particularly if they given the respect they deserve. Jewels, rituals, solemn oaths, blood sacrifices, all this and more may be required to convince the average spell to adopt physical form. Assume the worst if a spirit deigns to inhabit a sword of a clearly lower class than one would normally expect. Hence, the importance of naming conventions. Swords are only given names after they’ve lasted through enough battles and adventures to warrant a truly magnificent Temple. Misnaming a blade and attempting to coerce a spirit to reside within is liable to result in an insulted spirit and a vaporised enchanter.

Keep in mind, the only spells that are powerful enough to form flashy** magic weapons are Emblem spells, the rarest and most sought-after of arcanum. Spells of a lower potency won’t be able to impact the material world without the power of a mortal caster behind it, and that’s nigh-impossible when sealed in steel. However, these ordinary spells have an obviously supernatural understanding of their host, the Temple, and can grant various bonuses to a wielder... but they can also revoke that bonus if their esoteric demands are not met. Far more reliable to mix a drop or ten of occultum into the molten metal and call it a day.

So, you’ll need an already incredibly rare Emblem spell that will consent to inhabit a material object, a suitable weapon which has probably been in a family of knights for generations, enough jewellery to choke a duchess and the knowledge to combine all of these without blowing your face off.

In theory.
In practice, it’s much harder.

Other Items

The equipment of ancient heroes aren't the only objects that form suitable Temples The spells used to form Bags of Holding have a liking to the containers used in heists, bank robberies etc. and so are often found possessing ratty sacks or unassuming crates. The day-to-day accoutrements of prophets and sages, tea-cups, bits of furniture and the like, can be used to house divination spells. However, objects exposed to magic directly have a slightly different tune to play, which I will explain in the last part of this little trio: Relics.

The Results

It can be hard to predict the the final result of the creation of a Temple. The behaviour of the spell, the quality of the materials used, even the mindset of the creator can have an impact on the final results. However, the majority of Emblem spells can be formed into items that behave in a similar manner within a reasonable margin of error.

Spell Hosts Demands Effects
Fireball Swords, Axes Regular use in combat, burnt sacrifices, arson Flaming - +1d6 fire damage, target must save or ignite
Lightning Bolt Hammers, Spears Jewels, pandering, continual prayer Shocking - Target must save or take 1d6 lightning damage, 1d12 if wearing metal. Item returns to matched gauntlet if thrown
Power Word: Death Bladed weapons Murdering family members, close allies etc. Vorpal - Critical hits behead targets
Heal Any wielded in Holy purport Saving orphans, donating to charity etc. Smiting - +1d8 radiant damage, undead must save vs. fear if brandished
Mutate Any Drinking strange potions, being exposed to radiation Unstable - Reduce die size, deals x1d4 damage, critical hits add a mutation
Wall of ... Any Constructing altars Mutable - Only handle required, blade etc. constructed out of linked element
Fade Any Stealing artwork, creating a shrine Phasing - Ignores physical armor
Magic Missile Thrown weapons Regular, obsessive polishing Returning/Homing - Either reroll a missed attack, or returns to hand at end of round

*Except not at all, evidently.

**Anything involving fire, lightning, or jabberwockies will problem need an Emblem spell. +1 weapons, not so much. Some exceptionally potent "ordinary" spells may exist, but they rarely deign to inhabit mortal forms without significant encouragement, hence their more tractable cousins are used instead. Which would you rather inhabit your brain: A Magic Missile happy with three square meals of Magic Dice a day, or one with raging narcissism and a habit of firing off when displeased?

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