The travelling RPG Blog Carnival continues to jump from one blog to another. While I devoted a lot of time to the February topic, the monthly host continues to change. The travelling RPG Blog Carnival continues to jump from one blog to another. While I devoted a lot of time to the February topic, the monthly host continues to change.
In August, the latest host was the mighty Kobold Press. The chosen topic for the month was Magic. The Kobold Press site outlined the topic like this:
There are few things as iconic in RPGs as magic. It’s a vital component of nearly all “fantasy” RPGs and even figures prominently in many “sci-fi” games. It is the ability to make the impossible a reality. Sometimes it’s super dangerous, requiring great sacrifice, and sometimes it’s just knowing the right words to say. Sometime you have to train for years just learn simple spells, and sometimes it’s in your blood, coming out as naturally as your breath. Sometimes it comes directly from you, and sometimes it comes from items, gods, the very fabric of reality. There are so many different ways to bring about the impossible.
As noted last week, a magic bundle is a collection of sacred items associated with a Common Magic spell. The contents of the bundle reinforce the caster’s connection with the spell and facilitate its casting. The items in a bundle are unique to the caster, so two bundles for the same spell may be very different.
The contents of a bundle could follow animist, arcane or divine principles. These competing magical philosophies might even be present in the same bundle. An object in a bundle may be a family heirloom or have a personal link to the caster. Given such a broad range of possibilities, the tables accompanying this article offer you a starting place to decide what is included in your magic bundle.
The typical magic bundle consists of three items carried in a small cloth pouch. These items serve as a link between the caster and the spell. Thus, there is often a thematic link between the items and the nature of the spell. As this sympathetic link needs only to exist in the mind of the caster, the nature of the connection may vary wildly. Magic bundle contents can be divided into three categories, with most bundles holding one item from each:
- Runic – the caster’s personal rune, or one associated with the effect of the spell. The runic item may be a copy of the rune, an item carved with one or more runes, or an arcane sigil inscribed by the caster.
- Target – a miniature tool or a piece of material linked to the target. Hunting or battle magic may use a broader sense of the concept of the target. Thus, carved images of birds, animals or warriors are common.
- Effect – a link to the result of the spell, may be literal or figurative.
To illustrate the categorization of objects in a magic bundle, here is an example trio for a Fire Arrow spell:
- Runic – a fire rune scratched onto a bone disc. This could equally be an air rune, as the arrow travels through the air, a hunt rune or even a death rune. [Roll 5] Alternatively, the rune could be woven from twigs. [Roll 15]
- Target – a raven feather, representing the feathers on an arrow. [Roll 3, applied to birds, roll 4-5] A carved wooden arrow, or an arrow head could apply too, or even a small piece of arrow shaft. [Roll 17] Representation of a bow also applies here, or an image of a hunter or archer. [Roll 16]
- Effect – a dried red flower, representing the flame on the arrow. [Roll 9] A piece of charcoal from the local temple. [Roll 18, roll 17] An arrowhead carried by the caster’s Grandmother in battle [Roll 20, roll 6]
To determine the contents of a magic bundle, roll three times on the following table, then arrange the results into the three categories listed above.
|1||[Animal] bone||Often the skull of a small animal, or bone sliver from a large animal|
|2||[Animal] foot||Foot, paw or other part of small animal, usually dried with skin & fur|
|3||[Animal] skin||Small piece of larger animal, may be feathers, scales, etc.|
|4||[Animal] tooth||Possibly a claw, or beak from animals lacking teeth|
|5||Bone rune||Either carved into a piece of bone, or a rune carved from bone|
|6||Bronze object||Weapon, tool or personal item|
|7||Carved bone [Animal]||A bone carved to represent an animal|
|8||Carved sigil||Carved into bone or wood|
|9||Dried flower||Often used as a source of colour|
|10||Dried herb leaf or root||See text|
|11||Rune-stick, bone||See text|
|12||Rune-stick, wooden||See text|
|13||Sigil on leather||Sigil drawn or cut onto a piece of leather, or possibly cloth|
|14||Sympathetic object||Object associated with target, effect or the caster|
|15||Twig rune||Rune made from twigs lashed together|
|16||Wooden [Animal]||Or a carved figure of a warrior, etc.|
|17||Wooden tool||Small wooden model of a tool, weapon or other object|
|18||Blessed [Re-roll]||Item blessed by a local priest|
|19||Bloodstained [Re-roll]||Blood from caster, battle, an animal sacrifice or from a ritual source|
|20||Heirloom [Re-roll]||Item handed down from caster’s family, clan or teacher of the spell|
Whenever rolling on the table, there is always scope for customization with the results. The outcomes are a launching point for your imagination, not a strict outcome. If the Players think of a cool object to have in their bundle, then the best option is to let them have it and build on their enthusiasm. Allow the Players broad scope for interpreting how sympathetic magic works for their Common Magic.The following entries in the table may need additional explanation.
Dried flowers and herbs – these items add a degree of herbalism into the mix. The shape, colour or texture of the vegetable matter could all be the source of the sympathetic link. The herb could easily be a real-world hedgerow plant or a fantasy one of your own creation. By the nature of Common Magic, this plant need not have any magical properties. However, if you have a list of herbal plants in your campaign, this is another way to weave it into the game.
Rune sticks – these are short lengths of wood carved with a series of runes. Typically they are created by the caster of the spell. Alternatively, they could be heirlooms or a gift from the teacher of the spell.
Cascade – a few items in this table use square brackets [like these]. This indicates a cascade, requiring a second roll. Included in this article is a second table for generating animal types, see below.
Re-rolls – the second type of cascade entry requires a re-roll on the main table. Simply roll again, ignoring any result previously rolled when creating this item. Thus, it is possible to roll up a blessed heirloom item.
The second table in this article is used to create animal types for the objects in a magic bundle. The entries in this table are broad categories, with a few suggestions. Choose a suitable animal in the category rolled. Depending on the tone of your campaign, you could also include sentient races as options within the Predatory or Fantastic categories.
|1-3||Predatory||Wolf, bear, lynx, weasel, stoat, python|
|4-5||Avian||Eagle, hawk, crow, raven woodpecker, vulture|
|6-7||Burrowing||Mouse, mole, beetle, rabbit, hare|
|8-9||Domestic||Cow, bull, sheep, ram, cat, dog|
|10||Fantastic||Fey cat, unicorn, drake, elemental|
|11||Riverine||Otter, vole, heron, ibis, salmon, trout, eel
|12||Sea life||Shark, seal, starfish, urchin, octopus|
The fantastic category of animals is perfect for customizing according to your campaign. Pick common fantastic animals from your setting. Iconic creatures from your setting can be emphasized here. Even something as large as a dragon could be represented as scrapings from a dragon scale or slivers of dragon bone.
Rolling on these tables creates the contents of magic bundles for Common Magic. Players roll three times, then look for sympathetic magic connections to the rune, target and effect of the spell. Creative choices here can reveal the personality or history of the Hero. I hope to use these bundles to emphasize the difference between the various types of magic in my setting, as well as underlining the role of runes as a source of magic.
What would you include in Common Magic bundles? Which entries excited your Players? What fantastical animals from your setting did you include as an example? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
- Read more about the August Carnival at Kobold Press
- Read more about the July Carnival at Daemons and Deathrays
- The RPG Blog Carnival is under the stewardship of Johnn Four, at his Roleplaying Tips website.
- See my dedicated page for a full list of all my RPG Blog Carnival contributions.
- Do you need more Tales?
If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:
- Something for the Weekend last week: Aug ‘17 Carnival, Part 1: Common Magic Bundles
- Something for the Weekend next week: Junior RPGs and Social Engineering
- My next Blog Carnival contribution was in September, where I wrote about riddle rooms