Palladium/Role-Playing Top Ten Lists
Top Ten Lines Heard at a Rifts Meeting 10. Well, MY character can kill 4 dragons with one punch.
9. Ha ha, the coalition is nothing compared to my Rahu-man, superhero, Juicer with Tatoos, Psionics, and a 3rd set of bionic arms.
8. Oh, it is a weapon from the new Rifts Net book "The Unstoppable Juggernaut from the East".
7. We had the SDF-1 crash near our characters and we modified the main gun to be smaller and more powerful.
6. How much damage, 126 MDC? Ouch, that tickles.
5. Hey, what happened to the village we were fighting in?
4. What do you mean, urinate? I am not taking my armor off for anything.
3. How did you get a plus 14 to strike? I only have a plus 11.
2. Oh, you gained 2nd level.
1. Hey guys, did you hear that Palladium is putting out yet another book for Rifts?
Top Ten Actions Least Likely to be Performed by a Rifts Player 10 Play a human.
9. Have his character drive a vehicle with no weapons.
8. Appreciate the fact that his company prints Rifts books contuniously.
7. Look at a book and say, "What the fuck, this is way out of hand."
6. Role play
5. Suceed in another system
4. Create a new weapon or OCC that does not relate to some popular Science Fiction Creation (i.e Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5)
3. Feel guilty about stealing the concepts of another author.
2. Create a Web page that looks different in content from the other 23,000 (wait a new one was made 23,001) pages.
1. Keep from interjecting Rifts examples into a discussion about a game that is not Rifts.
Top Ten Skills New Skills in the Upcoming Palladium Books
10. Dance: Hokey Pokey
9. Recognize wind direction.
8. Apply Band-aid
7. Climb Tree
6. Make Funny Faces
5. Create Sand Castles
4. Tend Bar
3. Put on Weight After Marriage
2. Cut Your Own Meat
1. Duck Taping
Top Ten Wizard Spells Used on Dates 10. Heavy Breathing
7. Finger of Lictalon
5. Animate Object
3. Fire Fist
1. Size of the Behemoth
Top Ten Upcoming Rifts Books 10. Rifts: Tiajuana
9. Rifts: More Things to Obliterate.
8. Rifts: Girl Scout Corps
7. Rifts: Narnia
6. Rifts: Swimsuit Edition
5. Rifts: Old Material With a New Twist so You'll Buy It.
4. Rifts: Boardwalk and Park Place
3. Six Flags over Rifts
2. Rifts: Compendium of Weapons you can't possibly hope to use.
1. The big book of things you can't kill.
Top Ten Signs You Are a "Roll" Player 10. You calculate damage inflicted upon an opponent even though it has only one hit point left.
9. Non-combat activities are restricted to Cleaning Arms & Armor, Buying Arms & Armor, and spoilong for a fight.
8. You periodically roll your twenty-sided die, just to keep it warm.
7. Attack all orcs, trolls, and other "monster races" on G.P.
6. You recalculate all your bonuses every time you strike.
5. You would rather have a new weapon than a hot meal.
4. You are constantly informing other PC's how easily you could kill them.
3. You have memorized the maximum possible damage you character could do, but you can't remember the name of any NPC's.
2. You have no skills with a percentage.
1. Your character has 2 sets of clothing : Plate and Hard leather.
Top Ten Stupidest Things I Have Heard Said While Playing 10. Let's split up - together!
9. I know that's what I said, but you didn't hear what I meant.
8. I want to hit people behind our front line, so I will just pull the bowstring back half-way.
7. I'll check the water for piranha by placing jerky at the end of my sword and waving it around in the water.
6. That's not what you heard!
5. I'm not looking through my eyes, I'm looking through my goggles.
4. Pull the arrow out to so I can stop the wound from bleeding.
3. I lost 2 points of P.B. due to scarring, but it's on the body so my character still is as attractive as ever.
2. If you don't like the way I'm GMing, you can just leave. (GM in some else's home)
1. I'm sure that's not what they meant when they wrote that in the rules.
Top Ten Problems With Rifts 10. All creatures except humans and their ilk become mega damage in Rifts. (Come on, Mega Damage Fairies?)
9. Every book has an even more powerful supernatural creature that would be impossible to kill without some serious cheating.
8. There is are so many O.C.C's that every single player in the country could be a different one.
7. And people are still making up new and even more powerful O.C.C.'s.
6. If you don't wear full environmental armor all the time, you will die before you are 2nd level.
5. The Rifts equivalent of a dagger (cheap blaster) can level a house.
4. A lazer scalpel can cut a man in half with one stroke.
3. Who in the hell can possibly remember, yet still utilize all that information?
2. There is no way that humans could have as much influence on that world as they do, being as frail as they are.
1. Palladium Books makes so much money from it that they don't focus on their other titles.
=====To Catch A Thief =====
The Palladium world is rife with strife and peril. With supernatural creatures, evil deities, and untamed wilderness all around, there are always dangers around every corner. However, the biggest dangers to the civilized denizens of the Palladium world are each other. All societies and civilizations have crime. Crime deprives society's members from their property, their pursuit of happiness, and on occasion, their lives. In our reality, we have organized law enforcement entities that act to prevent crime. The Palladium world most likely has the same. However, they do not have the same methods as are used today. They do not have the benefit of technology to examine evidence, or of conducting surveillance. Still, they do have their tools.
The Shamus of the Palladium world must rely on many of the same methods that our law enforcement officials do. They will follow the trial of evidence, interview people, collect facts, and make logical conclusions based on them. The good investigators will be separated from the bad ones by their ability to connect the pieces of a mystery and make sense of them. Still, they need to amass this information and instead of using technology, they will use magic and psionics.
Certainly, not all investigators will have psionic power. Even those that do will have only minor psionics and they may not possess the powers outlined below. So, it is not a common occasion for a law enforcement agent to be able to perform the following acts. In more rural areas, these powers will be unheard of or even feared. Small communities would be lucky to have a talented sheriff who can solve crimes with these methods. Or, they might rely on the help of traveling adventures or noble men (the PC group?) to aid them with some criminal enigma. The larger town, however, the more likely there will be someone who can go beyond the normal senses to gather information.
Civilized areas like the large cities of Timiro, the Western Empire, the Wolfen Empire, the Eastern Territories, and even the Orcish Empire will be able to employ talented men and women to hunt down their most wanted criminals. These psychics will be higher-ranking officials than the normal constable, being called in on a case-by-case basis. The most skilled will be reserved for cases of great importance. In major metropolises there will be psychics who are specialized. They will be broken down similar to our police departments, investigating various types of crimes where their talents can do them the most good. For psychics who are afraid of persecution but who still have some civic pride these callings can be immensely satisfying. They can use their gifts to help the public, be values members of society, and thus be accepted be them. Within big cities where crime is organized and entrenched, psychic investigators are coveted and well compensated.
Mind Mages will also surface in this line of work. However, they will always be some sort of lead investigator, or working alone. They commonly feel that it is beneath them to work with other people who are so less talented than they. They will be in positions of power, prestige, etc within an organization. Often, they offer their services private investigators, for a very healthy fee. This allows them the autonomy they enjoy and it also allows them to feel above society. They delight in solving crimes that have local law services baffled.
The most obvious psionic ability to help with catching criminals is Object Read otherwise known as Psychometry. This is most commonly used at crime scenes, when assessing pieces of evidence, or tracking missing or kidnapped persons. Anything that the perpetrator of the crime leaves behind can instantly be used to identify him. By reading the impressions off objects, the investigators can form an idea of who committed the crime. If they read the images from an object, they can attain a greater idea of who the suspect might be and see what happened in the time of the crime. This is especially effective with violent crimes, since the impressions of those crimes are more traumatic and emotional. Last, and perhaps most importantly, the object can be read for the present. This is a critical tool in tracking down suspects and missing people.
Psychics cannot be sure that someone committed the crime just by reading an object left at the scene. Rather it allows them to create a suspect profile, and to help find them. Once the subject is in custody, it can be used to verify that the subject is the pervious owner of the object. Either they look for a present image of the previous owner (who should be right there in custody), or they can read another object of the subject's and compare the two readings.
To maximize the effectiveness of this power, the more sophisticated agencies will have plans of action similar to the ones that our police use. If the patrol officer is called to the scene of a crime he should make sure it is safe for him first, then make certain that no one disturbs it. This will let the psychic come on to a pristine scene and improve their chances of receiving a clean reading.
Additionally, intelligent criminals are aware of this and will take measures to thwart the law's efforts. The most obvious step is to make certain you do not leave anything behind on the scene. Assassin's guilds will train their members to always remove the weapons from the scene and to not leave any scraps of clothing, loose articles, etc behind. Some assassins and thieves will go so far as to shave their bodies to safeguard against leaving any hair on a scene. Often a felon will purposely leave something behind that will throw the police onto another suspect. They commonly will steal something just before committing the crime and leave it on the scene before they have made any strong psychic impressions on it. Extremely dishonorable thieves who are working in pairs or with a team will cut something from one of their partners so it is left on the scene. This is usually done when they plan on leaving town, to set the heat on someone else.
Criminal organizations with vast resources will sometimes have scenes and objects wiped clean of any psychic impressions. This requires the services of a Mind Mage. These tactics are used by the best of the best, allowing them to have an added level of caution. It also allows guilds and organizations to leave behind calling cards or other symbols of their work without them being used against them.
A talent that is very rare among law enforcement officials but is still very useful is Commune With Animals. Obviously, this is only useful when there was an animal around to see what was happening at the time a crime was committed, but it can still help. Few criminals are concerned with a pet, guard animal, or livestock. As such, they will not hide from them. The psychic can use this power to make normal animals into witnesses. This is most commonly used in catching horse thieves. The question “Who brought you here?” can really crack a case.
In murder cases, Commune With Spirit, can be a valuable tool. If the psychic is able to contact the recently deceased, they can just ask the person what happened. Usually the person is so angry with their killer that they will be more than willing to help the person asking. The spirit may be able to give more information, such as where the perpetrator is hiding now. Of course, it is a difficult proposition to contact a particular spirit, and this tactic is used only in high priority cases. Still, the chance of contacting a spirit that has been murdered is much higher than a random spirit. They often remain around the place of their death and are looking to take revenge on their killer.
Once the suspect has been identified and captured, there is still a tool the psionic can use – Telepathy. Telepathy is the ultimate interrogation tool. Even if the subject is lying, their thoughts can still give them away. While questioning the suspect, the telepath can read the surface thoughts, glimpsing images, names, locations, etc. Often there will two people performing the interrogation. One person will ask the questions while the telepath stands off to the side, focusing on the subject's thoughts. This is very effective since few people suspect their thoughts are being read and do not guard against it. Obviously, this is less effective against experienced criminals, people with ordered minds, and other psionicists.
Additionally, the authorities will use this tool deceptively. For example, they will have only one person in sight, while the mage is close by but hidden from view. This often lessens the subject's suspicion. Other deceptions are common as well. Often the subject will be questioned intensely and the questioner will feign irritation at not receiving the information he or she wants. The subject will be returned to his or her holding cell. The telepath will be nearby, eavesdropping on the subject's thoughts. Usually, the subject will be thinking of the interrogation and the telepath can pick up the answers that were not available in the interrogation. More determined organizations will beat, torture, deprive of sleep, etc. to make the subject more susceptible to the telepath's probings.
While rare and dangerous, Astral Projection is used on occasion for surveillance. While Palladium lawmen don't normally need any warrants to search a house, there are some places that are difficult to search. Houses of rich men, nobles, churches, guild houses, and other places that normally do not grant access to the public are difficult for the law to search. While in astral form, the psionic can pass through walls, warded areas, almost anything without being spotted or rebuffed. The problem is finding someone who is comfortable enough and experienced enough to be able to travel in the astral form and gather the intelligence needed.
Last, some mind mages working for governments or themselves will use Domination. This allows you to take the form of someone who is already trusted and use it to whatever purpose is required. This takes all the time of placing a plant or undercover operative. You just study someone's behavior, and become him or her. You can then go about in their body and gather information, set up sting operations, etc. This is a tactic that is used but is never discussed.
Magic can do almost anything if properly applied. It is the technology of the Palladium world. The denizens of the Palladium world have applied it to all facets of life, from building to destroying. Crime fighters have learned its usefulness in investigations as well.
While not as arrogant and standoffish as Mind Mages, Wizards are not the most subordinate of men. They are not going to be employed as a normal constable and very seldom will be the first law official on the scene of a crime. However, they are far more prone to be in the service of a liege lord, king, or local government. As such it is more common to see wizards being brought in to aide in investigations on occasion. Many of the larger cities will have wizards in their bureaucracy and these men and women will be able to help with solving and trying cases.
The most useful spell for all criminal investigations is Words of Truth. With this spell, you can force people to tell you the truth. While they can save against the spell and not answer your question, they cannot tell you a lie. So, every response the questioner receives is going to be the truth, or at least what the subject believes to be the truth. People's guilt or innocence can be determined in a minute. “Did you steal the Mother of Pearl necklace from Baron Wistar?” If the person answers yes, they are guilty. If they answer no, they are not guilty. Also, you can ask for accomplices, tactics, anyone who employed the person, and what other crimes they have committed. The only time this will fail is if someone is set up to take a fall by having a memory inserted. Thus, they will believe they committed the crime and admit to it truthfully, even though they did not commit the crime. This also will not work when someone does the deed without knowing it, such as victims of lycanthropy, people who were under the effects of the psionic power Domination, or who were possessed by s supernatural force. Still, it will be effective in determining guilt and solving crimes in 90% of cases. Organizations that do not have access to wizards who can cast this spell, can still use Truth Serum or have the spell on scroll. Field investigators often will bring spells on scrolls with them when searching for a suspect.
The amount of legwork this saves investigators is immeasurable. You can forgo gathering evidence in many cases. All you need is the person's knowledge that they committed the crime and the magic to force them to tell the truth. Even if they have an incredible resistance to magic, they eventually have to tell the truth. Investigators who are worth their salt will know how to word the questions to leave as little room for misunderstanding as possible. All they have to do is find the subject and ask them if they did it or not. That's the extent of the investigation. Certainly they can probe deeper, looking for accomplices and going after them, but it really will save time when you can count on someone's guilt to doom them.
Smaller areas will often capture someone they believe to be the person who committed a crime after a careful, more orthodox investigation and transport them to the local magistrate or mage who can determine guilt with a simple spell. If there is a mage in the area, perhaps one of the adventuring group, they might be called upon or paid to sit as a judge, using Words of Truth.
While it is normally used as a form of communication, Magic Pigeon can aid investigators. When trying to track down a missing person this spell can be used to pinpoint the location of the individual. This is only effective when the person's general location is known, so it is not useful if someone has been taken out of a city or if his or her general location is not know. This spell is usually used in conjunction with the spell Locate.
If the location is known, then this spell can be useful. The pigeon will fly right to where the person is being held. All one has to do is follow the pigeon right to the person being sought. The difficulty comes in following the pigeon. This can be done in a number of ways. Since one needs magic to use this, magic is often used to follow the bird. Following it astrally, by flying yourself, or by sending a familiar after it are the most common forms of tracking the pigeon. Some mages have been known to metamorph to follow the magical construct. However it is followed, it can lead one right to one's target.
With the use of magic spells, wizards can conduct surveillance in all manner of ways. The can project themselves astrally like psionicists and move through walls looking for criminals or evidence. They can use familiars to search areas they cannot. They can metamorph themselves into various forms to allow them access to buildings, or other otherwise off-limits areas.
Magic spells and effects from magic items are routinely used to conduct surveillance. These powers allow the investigator to see things without being there, without being detected, and without hindrance from the suspects. Spells like Astral Projection, Chameleon, Invisibility, Reduce Self, Second Sight, Shadow Meld, X-Ray Vision, etc. allow characters to look through walls, into areas that are closed or warded, see through other's eyes, and move sneak into strongholds undetected. Spells like Mystic Portal allow access to houses, homes, castles, vaults, caves, rooms, etc for raids or investigation. It can also allow the caster to just stand in the street and look into a place without them knowing.
As mentioned before, magic items are often used in lieu of the spell. Potions that make you tell the truth, rings, talismans, etc are all used on a regular basis for questioning. Scrolls can be purchased to allow the police to create the magic effects they need if they do not have a spell caster at their disposal.
In certain large cities, in cases where the governments or large, powerful guilds are involved one of the greatest investigative magic items in existence can be brought to bear – the Crystal Ball. With this device, anyone can be spied on, as long as they are within the range of the magic orb. Only mages can resist this by noticing and expending the PPE to sever the connection. However, they cannot stop the looker from trying again. In the Western Empire these devices can be used along with undercover agents. The agent can infiltrate the organization and he is watched by the Crystal Ball. This is far better than using a wire as law enforcement officials to in our world. Plus, if the plant is blindfolded or has their senses somehow dulled, the watcher still sees everything. Many secret guild locations have been discovered in this fashion. Kidnappings have been foiled when the perpetrators of the crime moved the victim while someone was watching them, and gave away their position. The ability to gather intelligence with this device is almost infinite. Unfortunately, it is a rare device and only the wealthiest and most influential people will have access to it.
The Palladium world is rife with crime and violence. Much if it takes place because the powers that be just allow it. The small crime is often left up to the individual. However, the people who investigate the crimes of the Palladium world are not helpless. The best will have psionics and magic to utilize in their search for truth. Players who are trying to solve a crime should keep these ideas in mind while playing. Also, GM's should keep these tactics in mind when having the law pursue PC's. The arm of the Palladium Law may not be technologically advanced, but it is still very, very long.
Teaching Old Wizards New Tricks
Level 1 Spells:
Blinding Flash: This spell is normally used to blind an opponent. However, it makes an excellent signal. In the day, this spell can safely be seen from a great distance. At night, its visibility is increased even more. It is especially good for signaling attacks that require the synchronizing of many groups. If the spell caster is on the ground, he or she can still cast it 60 feet in the air. If the mage has a higher elevation, the signal can be seen by more people.
Cloud of Smoke: This is another spell that makes for a suberb signal. It can be used to mark a location for a search. Smoke is particularly visible from above and this spell can be used to draw the attention the airborne. This spell can also simulate a fire. If you want people to evacuate a building, try casting this spell and then yelling "Fire!" Last, if you use the proper verbalization you can trick people into beleiving it is something other than mere smoke. "Beware my Mist of Death!" or some such warning can make people leave the area of the smoke in fear.
Globe of Daylight: While this spell incantation is the ultimate torch, there is a hidden use for it. If you stand right in the sphere, you will be invisible. People will only see the light and since you are behind it, they will not see you. This will not protect you from any means of detection other than sight. Another consideration is that few people will readily accept the fact that a Globe of Daylight just happens to be there. However, it is ideal for setting an ambush as they will ponder the presence of the light. They will most likely NOT search the area of the globe itself and once their backs are turned they are vulnerable.
Increase Weight: I met a man named Etomaleth the White who showed me how this spell can create a powerful missile. By taking a common stone and increasing its weight you can make an innocent looking rock as potent as a boulder. You still require the force to send this object ariborne, but the enemy will be less likely to try to avoid a simple pebble. This works well with telekinesis.
See Aura: A spell that is useful for gaining information about a person without their knowledge. Commonly this spell is described as being able to see or sense things that are invisible to the eye. This is true and this power can be used to detect creatures that are invisible. It will not allow you to see them, but you can where they are in addition to the other information gleened from this power. It only works for a short time, though.
Sense Magic: This is another spell that can allow you to detect invisible people. If they are using a spell, then the spell itself will give away the position. Again, this will not allow you to see the invisible person, it only allows for detection. If you concentrate, you can use this to root out all sorts of magic items and effects. If you are curious about the presence of wards on a door, use this spell.
Level 2 Spells
Levitation: While this is commonly used for levitating the mage to higher altitudes, it has its effectiveness in using it on other people. If you can grab ahold of another person, you can remove them from a melee quickly and easily. If that person is the enemies’ best fighter or just someone who you do not want to be injured in hand to hand combat, they are out of the fight. It also can make a longbowman useless since there is nothing against which they can brace their feet and legs. This will make it very difficult to draw the string. Finally, you can always drop a person once you have them up there, causing great damage.
Level 3 Spells
Energy Bolt: This is the best spell for intimidation of people who are afraid of magic. Use this spell to hit something fragile: like a vase, a window, plant, etc. Fire the bolt from your eyes or mouth and superstitious people will most likely attribue great power to you. This might also convince them you are a demon, but that is intimidating also.
Float in Air: This spell is excellent for increasing the speed of a very small sailing ship. One mast is the most you are going to be able to hold aloft. However, when it is out of the water and the wind is behind it, it will fly (pardon the pun). Use this spell in conjunction with Weightlessness and you can lift larger objects. This is also great for passing over wards on the ground, Carpet of Adhesion, or any other trap that lies on the ground.
Fuel Flame: Obivous uses for this spell, but try it on another magic spell. Fireball travels to quickly unless you have two mages working in tandem. This can allow you to strike many opponents with a fireball. It can also transform a 10 Foot Wheel of Fire into a 20 foot wheel of fire. Also, you might be able to cast it again and thus make a 40 Foot Wheel of Fire.
Negate Poison/Toxin: I have theorized, but not tested the idea that this spell could render venomous creatures relatively harmless for a period of time. While I am certain it works on the caster’s blood stream, I have no evidence it functions when cast on another creature.
Level 4 Spells
Carpet of Adhesion: This is the perfect spell for setting a trap. If you can set an amubsh, this is the spell that will ensure the target will stay there for at least 30 seconds. This spell can also prevent you from falling, if you can place it on a wall and grab it. This works especially well on inclined planes. You can prevent anything from falling down towards you by placing the carpet in the path of the rolling or bouncing object. Placing the carpet on a person will effectively immobilize them as they will stick to anything they touch. You can also cast it on a weapon and render it useless.
Magic Net: While this spell works very well for snaring opponents in combat, there are other uses for it. This makes a fantastic tool for fishing as few fish carry magic weapons. I can also act as a makeshift rope in a pinch. If you are in the net, you cannot move, but from the outside there is no peril. So, the net can be placed on a vertical surface and you can easily climb up.
Shadow Meld: This is one of the most useful spells I have encountered. It is the ultimate stealth measure when there are shadows present. This magic creates a unique effect on your mass, which will allow for even greater movement possibilities. The spell does not prevent you from being attacked while you are in the shadows so you still have yoru mass. However, you only need a shadow of 5 feet to serve as a hiding place. If you are over 5 feet tall, the spell will alter your mass. While you will retain your mass, the dimensions of your body are altered. You can travel anywhere the shadow goes. Using this spell, you can walk under a door, down a chimney, etc as long as the shadow goes there. This is much better than a key.
Level 5 Spells
Calling: If you are seperated from your group often, this spell is invaluable. It can lead your group to you or act as a warning. If you are a crewmember of a ship, or the captain, you can provide warnings or give instructions in your absence. Finally, this spell can be used to really annoy someone. If you have someone you do not like, keep casting this over and over and it will seriously anger him. Just beware when they finally answer the calling.
Fly: Many mages use this spell to allow them and others to fly. It works very well in this use. If you have a carpet or other object handy then you always have an escape plan. If not, then a quick thinking mage can use anything to fly. This spell is probably the finest transportation spell around. If you want to move something, but it is cumbersome then make it fly and ride it wherever you want it to go. If it has metal in it (which negates the effect), place it on top of a carpet and make the carpet fly. It takes more concentration to prevent the cargo from falling, but it is very fast.
Size of the Behemoth: While this spell is often used to increase the size and strength of the mage or an ally, it can me more offensive if used properly. Cast this spell on an enemy who is armored and you can destroy the armor. Another option is to cast it on a person who is in a confined space. This will make them very uncomfortable and could immobolize them for a time.
Superhuman Speed & Strength: Both of these spells are rather obvious in their uses. One makes you strong, the other fast. They have certain medicinal purposes. In a pinch, these spells can help overcome minor injuries since they provide superhuman abilities and no fatigue is felt for the duration of the spell. Excellent for quick evacuations.
Level 6 Spells
Animate Object: This spell can be used to move things from the path. You can make a gate open, a knob turn, or a lock unlock itself. It is also a good way to set off wards that might be on an object. Since the control of the object is line of vision, you can cast the spell from 60 feet away and then move as far as possible. Then you can make the object move, thus setting off the ward. This is a great spell to cast on someone else’s weapon during combat. If they have a cloak or scarf, this spell can be used to strangle a person. This is also good for climbing as you can make a length of rope snake its way to a destination. There are as many, unseen, uses for this spell as there are objects.
Create Bread and Milk: The ultimate survival spell, but there are additional uses for this. In a pinch, it can create a weapon if you can swing a jug. It is also useful for storage. If you pour out all but a little of the milk, the container will remain. You can then use it to store something else if you don’t mind it being mixed with milk. Creating bread and milk in the air above someone’s head can create some serious confusion.
Fire Fist: There are definitely spells that are better for offense: Fireball & Call Lightning for example. The great thing about this spell is that you need a magic weapon to parry it, so if your opponent is without magic arms you have a free shot. Also, you can parry magic weapons and attacks with this spell. This is quite a boon if you do not have a magic weapon and you are pitted against an opponent with magic weapons or the supernatural.
Reduce Self: Here is another spell that is beneficial to the stealthy. Guards seldom check the ground for a person who is half a foot tall. This is a fine spell for slipping through a gate, grate, or small hole. If you couple this spell with others, it can increase their usefulness. An invisible, reduced character can sneak about with little fear of bumping into somone. If you couple this wil Shadow Meld, you can hide in much smaller shadows.
Time Slip: This is one of the most powerful spells to have survived the Time of a Thousand Magics. You cannot harm others while the spell is in effect, but you can place them in harm’s way. Try pushing them over a ledge or moving them infront of or under a missile. It also allows you to manuever behind or in front of a person. This is a great way to grab someone like a leader or important person to hold him or her hostage. If you need to escape an area, you can cast the spell and start moving away. While you are moving and the spell is running, cast it again. The end of the incantation and the spell effect should coincide. To observers, you will appear to flicker for a split second. However, you will remain out of their frame of time and you can make an easy escape, depending on how much PPE you have.
Level 7 Spells
Animate and Control Dead: This spell is obviously devastating in combat. First, you create a number of new allies and you instill the horror of having to fight a fallen friend or a man you just killed. It also is a good way to create a work crew. If you need to remove treasure from dangerous location, such as something with gas, wards, poison, curses, or other protective measures. They are also good at testing out illusions since they are not affected and are mostly expendable.
Immobilize: For the most part, this spell is pretty self-explanatory. However, Immobilize is so effective at stopping people that I feel it should be mentioned in this work. It can be used to stop people, protect from a missile strike, prevent damage from fire, prevent a person from bleeding, it is the ultimate wall, it can isolate a person from their group if properly placed, and hundreds of other uses.
Metamorphisis (animal): The key to this spell’s usefulness is a knowledge of animals. Certain animals have natural abilities, which can aid the spell caster in many ways. If a search of a large area is needed then metamorphasizing into an eagle will allow for greater vision from above. By turning into a hound, you can track by smell. Other animals have different sensory powers that can be utilized by the mage. This is also a great way to move around in disguise. Since you can still speak you can still cast spells. If you are in the form of a sparrow and you perch on a branch few people will attribute the cloud of slumber or other spell effect to you.
Second Sight: This is another spell whose main uses are rather obvious but there is one unseen ability provided by this power. You can know if a person is living or dead. If you try to see through their eye and the spell does not work, it is most likely that they are dead. Even if they have been blindfolded, you will see darkness. If the target is dead you will receive no vision of anything.
Wind Rush: This is a warning spell. It shows that could have done worse than knocking the opponents off their feet. This is also good at deflecting arrow volleys. If you create a crosswind, you can blow them off course. They have to be coming from a long distance to allow you to time it properly, but it is effective. This also can be used to turn a cloud spell against the caster. Just blow it back towards them and their group.
Level 8 Spells
Commune With Spirits: There exists a saying among Longbow man that you can’t shoot first and ask questions later. I beg to differ. What you can do is kill the person and then use this spell to communicate with them. For best results, promise to ressurect the person and then ask questions.
Locate: This spell is perfect for finding locations that are deliberately hidden, such as guilds. If you want to find someone with sticky fingers, then allow them to steal something and locate it. Chances are it is where they are. If you have powerful enemies and many friends, this spell is necessary because friends have a habit of being attacked and captured.
Level 9 Spells
Age: This spell is perfect for disguise. Since you are actually aged by the magic, it is not an illusion and the change will not be detected by means of dispelling illusions. If you are a younger person, then few people will look at you twice when you are old. How often to people consider the elderly?
Monster Insect: The key to the usefulness of this spell is knowledge of insects. Certain insects can spin web-like substances that are very sticky and strong. Others are excellent at digging, eating certain substances, flying, attacking, etc. Also, insects have excellent olfactory senses and can follow a scent very well. Last, the sight of a beetle or wasp of such size is going to be very intimidating.
Level 10 Spells
Metamorphosis(Superior): This spell is rather obvious in its uses. However, people often forget that you can change shape as often as you like while the spell is in effect. This essentially makes the spell caster a changeling for its duration. This can allow the Mage to hide over and over and to easily evade pursuit as well as frame other people.
Mystic Portal: This is one of the most powerful spells to survive to our era. Aside from the teleportation, the ability to enter any edifice and the ability to escape from any place there are other hidden powers stemming from the one-way passage. If you cast this spell on a ship’s hull below the water, it will sink quickly (special thanks goes to Zanzair sol’Jedit). This is perfect for setting an ambush on a house or manor. The spell is cast on the outer wall, and you can shoot in without them being able to shoot out.
Due to the exorbitant amounts of PPE required and the unlikely hood that anyone will ever obtain spells of levels higher than 10 I will not discuss any of those spells.
They Are Giants
Every fantasy system has Giants in it. Giants are present in mythical stories of all societies and as such are present in most fantasy role-playing systems. Giants are great enemies since they have increased power, size and abilities. They are antagonists for everyone since they are most often seen as being evil or menacing. So, when we play Palladium we use giants as villains.
This leads to the giants being confronted by normal size humans or humanoids. This confrontation leads to direct combat on many occasions. Here’s where the problems with giants arise. People seldom take into account the size of giants and how difficult it would be to attack and defeat such a creature. Game Masters will take time to describe the immense size and physical power of such creatures but seem to forget these facts when time comes to melee combat.
This is going to be a difficult proposition. The shortest Giant is going to be at least 14 feet tall. It will be very difficult to reach their vital areas. When you think of a weapon doing massive amounts of damage, you consider that it has struck an organ, or major blood vessel. At the least, it has done a tremendous amount of physical damage. Damaging Giants is going to be exceedingly difficult because of their size. The average humanoid cannot even reach a giant’s head, neck or upper body. They just can’t reach it because it is so far up. So, what you have is a limited area on the creature to strike. What further complicates the matter is how difficult it is to generate force when attacking something over your head. The humanoid form is not designed to attack above. While it is possible to attack something above the head, it is awkward due to the physiological construction of the humanoid form. This is why horsemen are so effective, they have the advantage of swinging down at an opponent and the opponent has to work against gravity when attacking up.
Another consideration is the thickness of a giant’s armor. While weapons of humanoids can punch through another humanoid’s armor, a giant is a completely different matter. Giants armor is designed to protect against other giants. Giants are much stronger, their weapons are much more deadly and giants can wear thicker armor. As such, puncturing it is going to be almost impossible to do with just a small human striking with a hand held weapon.
This brings us to the very popular "hamstring tactic". Now, anatomically, this is a very sound idea. By cutting the giant’s hamstring you can make it impossible for it to stand. This will bring the giant down to the ground where you can then strike at the more vital areas and it prevents the giant from moving around. It also eliminates the giant’s strength since it has no base with its legs gone. However, in order to do such a thing, you have to be close to the Giant’s legs. This is not going to be easy. Imagine a creature about 2-3 feet tall running at your legs. What would you do? You’d kick the hell out of it. Giants are not mind-numbingly stupid and are definitely not going to allow someone to run up and cut one of the most important tendons in their body. They will kick, stomp, cut, smash, etc the opponent and it will be relatively easy since the opponent will be right there.
Last, it is going to be 2 or 3 times harder to cut the tendon. While the characters might have very well crafted weapons, they are still going to be small. Even a very sharp pocketknife is only going to do a tiny it of damage to you. It will break the skin, it will hurt, but as far as damage in concerned it is not going to be very considerable. So, it will take a very powerful and deep cut to actually cut the tendon. All the while, you are exposing yourself to the giant’s counterattack.
What I am trying to say here is that it is incredibly difficult to gravely injure a giant in hand to hand combat. In order to be close enough to damage the monster you will place yourself in incredible jeopardy. You cannot reach tender parts of the giant’s body. You cannot easily penetrate the giant’s armor. If you are that close to the giant you leave yourself open to the giant’s counterattack. It is not very feasible to defeat a giant in hand to hand combat, even if you have it outnumbered.
When a Giant attacks you, what do you do? You cannot just parry it. I know people have characters who are strong and will debate this on the merit of their character’s great strength. However, I am going to say that the giant is going to be stronger than the character. Not only is the giant stronger, but the weapons of giants are huge. If the average giant is roughly 16 feet tall, you can assume that their weapons will be in proportion to their size. This would mean that the giant is going to be swinging a sword or other hafted weapon that will be roughly 8 feet long. It will also be solid metal of some sort. This weapon will also be brought down from a height of roughly 25 feet. Imagine trying to block an 8-foot girder that has fallen from 2 and a half stories. Now imagine it being driven by gravity andthe giant’s prodigious strength. You cannot just block such an attack. Superhuman strength will not cut it either. This will rule out parry attacks also. First, you cannot parry such a powerful strike and second, you are not going to be in range. Giant attacks must be dodged. This goes for missile weapons as well. You have to increase the weight and the damage for giant-sized missiles. They will have much more penetration as well. The added mass plus the force that propels the missile will allow it to puncture most humanoids armor easily. Remember that giant arrows are designed to punch through armor of much greater thickness.
The same goes for hand attacks by giants. While you could possible hide behind a sturdy shield and just be pushed back by a giant’s punch, this is unlikely. Giant attacks are most always going to come from above and have some portion of the giant’s enormous weight behind it. If it is a glancing blow, then the sturdy shield might suffice. It would drive the shield bearer back a few feet, but little harm would befall the target. However, no attack by a giant is going to be parried by a sword, or similar weapon. You cannot parry a giant fist with a flip of your blade. It is going to have too much force. Any attempt at such an endeavor should end up with the character being knocked over and stunned.
Kicks and stomps are the worst thing for humanoids. It is so easy to kick something that is so near your feet. Giants don’t need any flexibility or training to kick something that only comes to their waist. They can just kick you like a ball. If a giant kicks you, you will fly. You cannot just take it and come back at the giant. Even in extremely heavy armor with a large humanoid you are not going to have enough weight to stay rooted to the ground when that foot comes in. The giant might have second thoughts if it has soft boots or if it is barefoot and the little one is armored. If you are kicked, then you should roll a strength roll to see if you can keep your weapons in your hands. Again a stun is in order. Stomps create an extremely dangerous attack. Obviously, you can’t parry a stomp. If it hits, then you are going to be pinned. The tremendous weight of the giant will prevent you from pushing it off and it will do crushing damage every round. A giant’s foot will be pretty big also and it has a good chance of trapping your arms, legs, and weapons underneath. Again, if you have a sword and the giant is bare foot it might be reticent about stepping on the sharp things.
On the other hand, it is much more difficult for the giant to parry the smaller weapons that are jabbing at its body – unless it has a shield. A shield of a giant will cover a lot of area and can be used effectively to parry attacks from smaller creatures. It can also work to brush them away. However, it is dubious that the giant would be able to parry smaller, quicker weapons with a larger, more cumbersome weapon.
What to do:
So, how do you take a giant out? First, ask the giant if it wants to hang out sometime, then see if it wants to have dinner sometime. Ok, just adding some levity to this. The key is not staying close to the giant. Giants are huge and as such make great targets for bowfire. You kill a giant from a distance. It might take more time and planning, but that’s the way to do it. Giants are so large that some of them are actually as big as the broad side of a barn. Human sized archers should have a bonus to hit them. The bonus I will leave up to the descretion of the GM. Magic attacks will be successful as well. Fireball, Lightning Bolt, etc will inflict damage as normal. Also, due to their increase size, giants offer more angles from which to attack. Many archers can draw a bead on one giant.
Giants great size makes it difficult to hide also. This makes it easier to set up an ambush since they cannot be very stealthy. A giant may be able to prowl for his brethren but not when dealing with smaller beings. Giants also are going to have a harder time finding cover. If you can open fire on a giant from a protected area you can kill it easily. If you try it out in the open, chances are it will reach you and hammer you. This is an excellent method of drawing the giant into an ambush. You pepper it with bow-fire and when it comes after the archers, you have them pull back into the ambush area. It’s one of the oldest tricks in warfare.
These considerations should govern combat for more than just giants. Anything that is of great size and strength is going to have the advantage in hand to hand combat. This holds for dragons, sphinxes, certain demons, etc. These creatures are supposed to be feared. So, when you are GMing and using such a creature keep in mind the points I have outlined here. Do not allow your elven paladin to stand toe to toe with the giant. I know it makes for a great bit of legend for the character but it is wholly implausible. Make the players think about their opponents and force them to do more than just roll the dice.
5 Ways to Speed up Combat
'1. Preparation' – Have your character sheet filled out. Take the time to figure out all your bonuses for combat before the situation arises. Figure out all the bonuses for all your weapons and have them written down. Have the bonuses broken down in case the character is particularly adept in combat and the GM wonders how you have a +6 to strike. Have the weapon’s bonuses, those for hand to hand skill, those for OCC, those for physical skills, those for attributes, and anything else that might factor in. Then have the totals ready. Know that your character is +6 strike with his magic longsword and it does 2d6 + 10 when you swing it. Also, be ready to know how any loss of strength or ability will affect that damage.
If you do not prepare before, there will be consequences. I have seen people roll the dice and when the GM asks for a total, they try to figure it out right there. This results in wearing thin the patience of others. I have had to memorize the bonuses of people in my campaign because they seem unable. This is a common trick used by people who are afraid of rolling too low. You can always ignore your bonuses if you roll very high. If you pull a 10 or ambiguous number you can try to fudge your bonuses to make it enough. People also cause it that are too lazy to be prepared or who are just morons. Be prepared and stop wasting time trying to figure things out at the table.
2. Real Time – When giving time to the players to think of their actions, use their abilities against them, sort of. Divide the # of attacks a character has into 15 seconds and the result is the time each action requires. For example, if the character has 5 attacks then the 15 seconds / 5 attacks = 3 seconds per attack. Take this number and give the player that many seconds to figure out his or her action. In the above example, the player would have 3 seconds to decide what to do. If the player does not give you any answer then their character "freezes up" and loses the attack. You, as the GM can proceed with the NPC’s actions. Normally this action will be to hit the PC with some pointy object. When the player starts to argue, count down again and hit them again. If they continue to argue, continue to stab or bludgeon them. They will quickly learn the value of making quick decisions.
3. One Person at a Time – When combat begins, we all roll initiative. The person who rolls the highest goes first, and the others follow. Use this to determine who will speak first also. The highest initiative will tell the GM what he wants to do with his initial attack and the GM handles that. Then the GM moves to the next character. Notice, I say character because one of the NPC’s could have rolled higher. Once everyone has had his/her opportunity to attack, you start over again at the top.
As a player, you have to wait patiently and be ready to react for your turn. The GM asks you what you want to do and it he or she is using the above rule they start counting down as soon as they ask you. Do not say, "wait" or "Hold on" or otherwise try to stop the action. This just wastes time and makes the other players have to wait more. Also, do not jump into someone’s action. Allow them to make their move and then react to it. Do not try to do something "really quickly". Just patiently wait.
If everyone allows their fellow players to speak their piece without being interrupted the play will be much smoother. The player ahead of you will perform their action, the GM will respond, then you perform your action, the GM responds, and on to the next player. Things will really move along quickly.
'4. Just Do It –' One of the things that slows games down is questions. Some are necessary like questions about range and proximity. Others are just stalling tactics. You should never ask a question that starts with "Can I". If you are going to try something new how would your character know the result? Just try to do whatever it is you are doing. Take a chance, it’ll be more fun and it will cut down on the time people have to wait for their turn. GM’s are going to be more willing to allow something to work if you do it without a lot of conversation. If you express confidence the GM will not question your action as much. If you are uncertain, then they will be as well. Another benefit is that the GM won’t have a lot of time to think about the feasibility of the act.
5. Stop Cheating – I really shouldn’t have to put this up, but it is necessary. One of the big problems with combat is that people are too afraid of losing. I know the other players are going to rib you mercilessly if you are chopped down, but it’s not that important. What is the point of having rules if you are going to circumvent them at every whim? I won’t go into the integrity question here, as I am focusing on combat.
When you cheat, it slows the game down. If you are caught once, then the GM has to watch you to make sure you don’t do it again. Here are some things that people try often that slow the game down.
- Rolling the dice when the GM is not looking. Wait until the GM notices you and is prepared to see your roll. Do not try to roll it while he is not looking just in case you roll it low and you can take it off the table before he sees it. All this does is take up time. The die roll is random. Just because you rolled a "3" last time does not increase the chance of rolling a "17" the next. Also, do not argue about it hitting a book or a crack in the table.
- Do not try to give a spell some duration, damage, or effect it doesn’t have. The same goes for psionic powers or magic items. Have the statistics ready before you use it in the event that the GM has a question. Take what the spell offers and find a way to make it effective. (Read my article on how to use spells!)
- Do not cheat on your stats. Show the GM what you have to start and show him you are marking it off when you use PPE, ISP or lose HP. When you start to fudge these stats, the GM has to take time out to figure the real number.
- Don’t claim to have an object you do not. If you forgot to bring your grappling hook, tough. Tell the GM what you are bringing before your character leaves and go with that. When you start bringing things out that you couldn’t possibly have the GM has to look over your sheet or go over how you could be carrying that. Again takes too much time.
- Do not try to go back on something you said. If your character makes a mistake don’t try to change your story to help your own butt. This usually ends up in the other players saying how you didn’t do what you say you did and then there are 5 people talking and no one is listening. Just go with the flow and make amends.
6. Tough GMing - As a GM you have to be firm with your rulings. When you put your foot down, that is it. When you make a decision that is final and the discussion is over. Do not allow players to bully you by raising their voices or by continuously butting it. When they cheat or do something wrong, punish them. Negative consequences for their characters are great deterrents. When the majority of the missile attacks are targeted at them, they will learn. Or dock them experience points – that really hurts. If they try to waffle, to not cater to them. Listen for only a short amount of time and then make a decision. If they are slowing the game down tell them and move on.
In the end, the responsibility for streamlining the game play falls to you as the Game Master. You have to prevent those annoying players who want to monopolize the session from doing so. If you use the method of giving the player a few seconds to decide on the action (see #2) then you have to stick to it and count them down. Hold them to the rules you create and do not let them usurp your authority.
Western Magic Guilds
While the majority of the world sees magic and its practitioners as mysterious, dangerous, and not to be trusted, the Western Empire has had a long love affair with mysticism. The study and use of magic in the Western Empire has become almost commonplace. With the freedom and support from the imperial and provincial governments, mages have become an accepted part of Western life. As with many other large group of like persons, the mages have numerous guilds to further their goals. Mage guilds in the Western Empire are the most powerful and influential in the Palladium world.
The goals of individual guilds can vary greatly from guild to guild. Each one will have numerous plots, schemes, or other machinations running concurrently. However, all of them will undoubtedly be designed to increase the power of the guild. The reason most men of magic study the arcane arts is for power. The men who rise through the ranks of the council will be more concerned with research is conducted on all forms of magic: spell, scroll, wards, circles, items, etc. Whenever a test subject is required, the poor are usually enlisted for a small fee or just plain abducted. Any mage who discovers something that is genuinely new will be regarded highly among the guild and will be quickly promoted.
Guilds also finance expeditions to garner information or to check out any persistent or promising rumors. This leads to many members of the guild hiring adventurers, almost always men-at-arms, to accompany them into the Old Kingdoms, Yin-Sloth Jungles, Baal-gor Wastelands, Ophids Grasslands, and other unexplored sections of the Palladium world. Most of these trips are financed privately by the wealthier of members who are trying to gain more clout within the guild by making a new discovery. Guilds will also organize groups of their own members and staff to sally forth and explore the unknown in hopes of unearthing some forgotten relic or information.
Guilds are also known to pay top coin to anyone with something of an unexplained magical nature or possibility. This irks the Imperial government to an extent but since the government and the guilds are mostly on good terms it is not a major issue. On occasion, they will trade knowledge with other guilds or with powerful organizations like the Imperial House. They will always try to come out the better in the deal and are usually excellent negotiators. Often, two guilds will trade knowledge and both feel as if they cheated the other.
2.Status: One of the benefits of being a wizard, especially in the magic friendly Western Empire is the status that comes along with being a mage. The guilds endeavor to make themselves as upscale as possible in order to project the proper image. They will often make their headquarters as ostentatious as possible to show their wealth and influence. They will attach themselves to the powerful nobles and can often be active in the political arena. This is a strong recruiting incentive for the guild. If a young sorcerer wants to be part of the in crowd, moving up in the guild hierarchy can be an excellent vehicle to run with the "in crowd". Wizards of high standing in their guild can be very well known in their region. People know their faces, have heard of their exploits, knowledge, courtesy, etc. before ever meeting the person. Most mages love this form of adulation and it is great face for a guild.
To this end, the guild will attempt to place trusted members in influential positions. This often lands a council member of the guild as advisor to the particular noble house, or ruling body. In some areas, the noble house is always supplied with an advisor by the guild. This gives the guild a foothold in the court and allows their members to attend parties, social gatherings, and other events thrown by the well to do. Nobles love to hobnob with mages and the feeling is usually mutual. Guild members have been known to marry into noble families and any noble who shows an interest in the arcane will be aggressively recruited by the guilds.
Guilds will also offer to help in any project that stands to garner them acclaim. They will donate members and/or money to public works and monuments. This allows them some free advertising as every time someone sees one of their monuments, they will think of those who made it possible- the magic guild. Often, there will be a plaque or engraving giving the credit of the monument to the one who funded it and the mage guilds are quick to take advantage of this. By allowing the public to see how great and benevolent they are, they gain in status.
Members of the guild seldom abuse their status, but they certainly enjoy it. Aside from the amenities offered by the headquarters, members of powerful guilds receive a number of other benefits. If the mage guild has any deals with other guilds in town, its members can receive all sorts of discounts on a variety of things. They are also welcomed at most of the up-scale establishments in a city and delight in being recognized as a member of their guild. To this end, most guilds have some sort of clothing identifier or visible tattoo like some thieves’ guilds.
3.Influence: It is only to be expected that any person who can force his will upon his environment to the extent that spell casters can would want to continue to exert his will on other things. Wizard guilds are notorious for dabbling in things that are not necessarily their business. This can include local politics, legislation, business, protection, crime, anything. Guilds can be very open about their involvement in issues, manipulate them from behind the scenes, or do both simultaneously.
Political involvement is the most common for magic guilds. If there is a ruling house, the guild will try to arrange to have an advisor assigned to the ruler. Some, more power-hungry guilds will try to turn the ruler into a puppet through which they can affect local law. Typically, they will send someone who is devious enough to make the ruler totally trusting and dependent upon the advisor. Once this is done the advisor will continue the sham of being his aide while making most of the decisions (or relaying those of the guild council) and having them enacted by the lord. This can be a problem in larger families where there are a great many voices to distract the lord from the advisor. Another method is to introduce a ruler to a strongly addictive drug and to supply him with it. This creates a besotted fool who is less and less concerned with governing and will gladly surrender power to someone else so that he or she can continue with escaping reality. In the Western Empire, the noble families commonly take this step without any influence from the guilds. There have been cases of more drastic measures taken. Mages have used spell magic like Love Charm, circles, wards, and other mystic means of altering the noble’s thinking processes to their liking, but these are rare.
In more representative forms of government, the guild will take different measures. If there is a chief decision making diet for a municipality you can place a safe bet that there will be at least one member of the mage guild on it. If possible, they will try to have as many people on it as they can but there will always be one. The representative will be carefully chosen for his speaking abilities and might even resort to incantations or other magic during sessions. This is also very rare, but has happened.
What’s more insidious is when the magic guild takes a quieter hand in matters. Some guilds choose to appear aloof from the political scene. This is a common stance taken in areas with less political stability. The guild will not want to be seen as taking part in petty squabbles of men. Rather, they will present the image of holding themselves above such infighting in their scholarly pursuit of the ways of magic. Some guilds actually take this stance in practice, but most use it as a front. A guild, which appears not to be involved in politics, can be totally tangled in it. Any guild worth its salt will have the wealth and power (mainly from its members) to offer aide and favors to political factions. The guild will not forget these favors it does for others nor will it allow them to forget. If there is more than one faction involved, the guild will likely help all of them to assure the winner be in their debt. Once it becomes obvious which will prevail, the guild can throw its support behind that faction wholeheartedly. A guild will also help the underdog, knowing that they will be tied to the guild for a long time.
What the magic guild does best, however, is intimidate and blackmail. Powerful guilds will have a proficient network of spies and informants to keep tabs on all-important figures of the area. These spies can keep track of trends in the city or region, track down rumors, observe others and plant misinformation of their own. Still, as competent as these men and women might be they pale in comparison to the mystic forces upon which the guild can call. There are no secrets from a guild when they start having you followed by familiars, summoned creatures, invisible members, or by scrying on you. The guild can use these means to gather all manner of dirt on important players in the political scene and use them in ensure these people work in favor of the guild. It is most disconcerting to take all possible pains to conceal your actions only to have a member of the local magic guild give you details of what you did, when you did it, where you did it, and with whom. Last, there is nothing to compare to the threat of mystic violence. The only thing more frightening than a mage are its servants - "Vote yes on the new tax, or your daughter will be rent asunder by a Shadow Beast."
4.Wealth: This is sort of a necessity for guilds. All of the above goals require money. While some members of guilds, or even entire guilds might be consumed by avarice, the normal guild member sees gold as a means to an end. To fund projects takes funds. To send expeditions requires supplies and money. Upkeeping of the guildhall requires a certain amount of currency.
The primary source of income for the guild is the members. To join the guild, you must make a donation of some sorts, to show the guild that you are a valuable member. In order to keep your membership and remain in good standing with the guild, you have to continue to make contributions to the guild. The more you contribute to the guild, the more respected you will be and the more power you will have. Contributions usually take the form of monetary donations but there are other things that are offered by members: spell knowledge (rare), magic items, information, and other non-monetary gifts are also appreciated.
The guilds make money on their own in a number of ways. Most guilds have an expansive library and while non-members are not allowed to see it, they can request to look at a book for a fee. A member will retrieve the book for the customer and there is normally an hourly rate for reading. Guilds will also sell minor magic items to adventurers or whoever needs them. These are always going to be small, non-powerful things like scrolls and potions. Guilds will seldom, if ever, sell magic to a non-member. They also sell information to others. As stated above, the information network of a mage guild is unparalleled and they know a great deal about what is going on in an area. Guilds are often silent partners in local business. If a guild sees a venture that seems likely to turn a profit, it will likely become a financial backer. This is normally done through a front man so that the business does not know it is being funded by the guild and so that others do not know of the guilds business ventures.
Last, guilds will hire their members out for various tasks. Guild mages can be seen guarding caravans, compounds, or other interests of employers paying exorbitant fees for the services of the spell casters. Local nobles often hire guild members to bolster their forces for combat. They act as mystic artillery in combat situations and can be devastating when working in unison. Important personages can request and pay for a member to act as a bodyguard. The member will most likely not have to act in defense of his charge since his presence shows that the person is under the protection of the guild.
Magic guilds take great pains to maintain their public image. Few people trust magic and its practitioners, especially summoners and diabolists. While magic is more accepted in the Western Empire, the dangers it presents have been seen more by the populous. Westerners may not be as superstitiously afraid of magic as other civilizations but they have distrust that comes from experience. The Mage guilds combat this distrust by making themselves out to be trusted and valuable members of society.
This is done primarily by taking part in all public affairs that will offer a positive spin on the Mage guild’s activities. Any action taken against an enemy, pest, or other public hindrance will be supported openly by the guild. Many people will feel better about their city just because they know that the guild is "on their side". This is not entirely false. The guild knows that it must have a stable base of operations to flourish and they will work with all officials to keep their realm of influence relatively calm. At least, they will unless they desire chaos. However, the guild’s contributions are usually only decorative. Strong magic guilds could wipe out thieves’ guilds if they put their full resources to it. They could also destroy the Ratling problems in the lager, older cities by clearing out the sewers. The mage guilds in the older cities also could take on the vampire problem, and could rid the cities of these foul monsters in a relatively short period of time. The problem is that such endeavors would be costly and potentially dangerous. The guild is not in the business of making the world a better place for all mankind. They are in the business of furthering their own goals and putting yourself in unnecessary danger is not a good way to do so.
Magic guilds will also sponsor acts and civic events to increase their image. Many guilds have been known to create fireworks displays for celebration, erect public buildings (often libraries), fund renovation, and to help organize festivals. Guilds will go as far as feeding the needy, providing temporary shelter for people who need it and performing other philanthropic actions. These actions will be enacted shrewdly and will seem to be coming at great expense to the guild. These ploys are extremely effective in winning over the support of the population. The guild is not exactly in the business of being adored, but it keeps people from being suspicious and demanding the local government to take action against the masters of magic.
Magic guilds normally are not hurting for members. They actively recruit young spell casters who seem to have promise. Young wizards with a great amount of PPE or who have shown aptitude of some sort in learning magic will be approached by a member of the guild offering probational membership. Aspiring wizards will also entreat the guild to grant them membership. The guild requires some sort of show of allegiance or good faith, normally in the form of a monetary sum, spells, or magic item. The guilds will rarely accept a member who is above 3rd level. The guild council doesn’t want too many powerful wizards with their own ideas undermining the guild. After a year of participating in the guild as a probationary member, where they show their worth, the new mage is inducted into the guild. Once the initiate becomes as full member, he/she receives all the benefits of a guild wizard.
These benefits are most obvious in the spell knowledge. While the guild council is loath to mete out any of their best spells, they can be rather generous with lower level spells. The usual is for one spell to be taught per year. This may not be the fastest way to power, but it is consistent and safe. Members are also rewarded with spell knowledge for exemplary service to the guild. Surprisingly, the guild council will trade evenly with a member for spell knowledge (i.e. 5th level for 5th level). This is an excellent source of knowledge for the reclusive members who do not like to go out into the world often or for members who are not keen on risking their lives for knowledge.
Most guilds will have a large supply of nominal magic items; charms, talismans, scrolls, potions, etc. and will loan these out or bequeath them to deserving members. If a member is in good standing, it is very likely that they can requisition such an item, as long as they can prove the need for it. These are also handed out as rewards for service to the guild. Service above and beyond the call of duty can result in any number of useful items for the member, and often they are offered a choice of items.
The guild offers more mundane amenities as well. Guild members can always stay at the guild headquarters for free or a nominal fee. There is also a crude form of chivalry between guilds where they will be cordial to members of other guilds and offer them sanctuary, albeit for a much greater price. These visitors will not be allowed anything other than sanctuary, but it is better than having to rough it in a strange city. In addition, they offer use of their real library and meeting places where they can discuss matters of magic with their peers.
The majority of mages feel that being among their peers is the greatest benefit of the entire guild system. Since the ways of magic are mysterious and dangerous, many people harbor fearful, superstitious beliefs about it. These beliefs lead to all manner of prejudices in spite of the best efforts of the guilds spin-doctors. For a mage to feel free to discuss his favorite subject, he has to be in the company of other mages. Only they will feel comfortable around a wizard and understand what he is saying. This feeling of belonging, finally, is what drives most of the wizards to the guild. They are tired of being the dangerous freak and wish for some sense of brotherhood. The guild offers that to them. For this reason, most of the guild members are loyal and can be a very tightly knit group.
The Magic guilds are often involved in many matters and thus will be forced to interact with numerous other organizations. While most of these interactions are most cordial on the surface, there can be a much deeper sentiment that runs through the guild members.
Clergy: This is one of the greatest threats to any magic guild. Most guild members will hold members of the clergy in contempt. After all, the wizard can command the forces of magic by sheer force of will. The priests require the favor of their gods to help them perform their feats of magic. They also see the priests as acting as pawns for their supernatural masters. All mages are going to possess a certain amount of self-confidence and as such do not take orders well. They feel that the priests have devoted their lives to an indifferent master who offers little more than the crumbs off their table. Mages would rather take matters into their own hands and affect their environment rather than supplicate themselves and hope that a higher power can intervene on their behalf. Very few spell casters worship gods and those that do often worship gods of magic or knowledge (i.e. Thoth, Kym-nark-mar).
Few churches will be very accepting of magic guilds. Churches that offer peace, kindness, and help will be very suspicious of a group of people who wish to uncover the power that devastated the land so long ago. While not all faiths consider magic as obscene as the ones in the Middle Kingdoms, there is a general mistrust of mages in churches. Churches that seek power and influence will find themselves in direct conflict with powerful guilds. They end up competing for the same resources and struggling to grasp the limited power of a region before the other does. Churches fear the guild’s recruitment of people towards the dangerous old ways and magic guilds fear the churches’ turning people against the ways of magic.
Other Magic: Guilds are often composed of wizards, summoners, and diabolists. They all use their own power to create their effects. Their elemental lords bequeath warlocks their power and this places them in much the same light as priests. However, they do not compete with the mage guilds too often so relations between guild members and warlocks is much better. There is a certain level of mistrust and respect that keeps the two sides civil.
Witches and Necromancers are abhorred by the guilds. It is bad enough that they so casually perform hideous and unspeakable magic acts, but they often lumped together with other mages. No mage will be happy to be compared to a witch or a necromancer and will gladly point out all the differences between them. Any report of a witch or necromancer that reaches the guild will be investigated. Should the report turn up a real witch or necromancer, the guild will act swiftly and with force. They will also make it known that they were taking steps to protect the good people of the region against the "evil" forms of magic, used by evil men.
Government: As outlined above, most mage guilds will try to exert as much influence as possible over any governing body. If they can’t they will most definitely work with them as much as possible. They loathe any negative publicity and as such rarely run afoul of the law. They will aide whenever it is a high reward for them and will generally stay out of the government’s way as long as things are working well for them.
Normal Folk: This is entirely dependent on the individual member. There are no regulations regarding interacting with the normal populous. It is impossible to operate in a large city without being among its citizenry. Some members can be very amiable and kind to all men. These will most often be respected members of their neighborhood and will have many connections with vendors, merchants, etc. Others can be insufferable snobs who feel their position raises them above the common rabble. These are the kind of men and women who will rarely deal with a peasant and will ride in carriages every where. Again, since image is important to the guild the members will usually be at least respectful of the person’s right to live in peace. They will not cause trouble, and the guild council deals those who do with swiftly and harshly. Guilds routinely do business with banks, merchants, etc and those who do not mind dealing with the "normals" will handle these activities. Some guild members will operate business on the side as well as being backers of other ventures. It depends entirely on the disposition of the guild member.
Adventurers: So, how guilds fit into your campaign? This will differ from guild to guild and should be used as a powerful plot device. Your average guild member will be disdainful of adventurers. The men-at-arms will be seen as brutes, the mages as wild and uncontrollable, priests as fools following a fool’s path, etc. However, not all members are average. Here are a few ideas as to how a guild could influence your campaign.
- Simply hiring them for a job. The job is dangerous and requires someone to do it. The guild does not want to risk any members, but will pay handsomely. This is trite, I know, but it can lead to a pre-packaged adventure or dungeon-crawl with an adequate segues.
- Helping a member. One member needs help. They are on the run, or are operating outside of the guild. They need the group to protect them from the guild and to aid in escape. This member will have holdings and can pay them. This will run them up against the guild’s forces.
- Helping someone else against the guild. Maybe one of the nobles in the guild’s pocket wants out. He hires the group to kill a few members of the guild, maybe his advisor. Or, he can hire them to destroy evidence that the guild might have.
- Running into the guild by accident. The guild and the PC’s are going on the same quest. They are looking for the same treasure, artifact, person, book, whatever. The guild will have employed a group to find it and this group will compete with the players for it. Then again, maybe they will work with them.
There are as many possibilities for the magic guilds in your campaign as you want. They will make great friends and allies for the group. They can provide support, information, etc although it will always come at a price. They can also be a constant enemy. They have the power and influence to cause the players problem after problem. This will carry on in revenge scenarios if the group cheats, foils, or otherwise becomes a thorn in the guild’s side. The guild can strike from many directions and can hide their touch if they want to. It could be an adventure in itself just trying to solve the riddle of who is attacking them. Have fun with the guilds and use them to their fullest!