Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ostari Ways: Councilor Birds and the Grey Ways

As discussed in the previous entry I really wanted to give the Ostari some ‘special’ style. Their magic would still follow many of the paradigm set by classic D&D, but be presented in a unique way. Thus, I wanted to come up with specific and different paths to solutions which I saw were not present in your average D&D game. Spellcasters, overall, get a lot of nifty little tweaks and talents because of their ability to cast spells . . . however, it is the rare setting where magic isn’t seen as something which is not above the average, a power which shouldn’t be trifled with. Even in this setup it is a rarity when magic ‘rises up’ above what is presented by your average crunch and fluff configuration. A lot of people want Merlins walking around their setting . . . I usually prefer more of a scientific approach. To me, magicians of all types (divine, arcane, what have you) are utilizing energy in a way which gives power through clever efficiency. In his series The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher asks which is more impressive (and I paraphrase): a large truck which steams and throws exhaust to move a load, or a small car which does the same with only a couple of AA batteries?

I think that creative and effective use of magic relies on getting the most ‘bang for your buck’, and understanding that because magic is an energy there will always be some sort of buffer, a resistance which can be fought against (and waste energy) or given into and went with to produce smaller but effective results.

It is through this reasoning that the Grey Ways, Councilor Birds, and magebanes became integral parts of the campaign setting in which the Ostari Imperial State is derived.

I’ve enjoyed the concept of each type of magic being different. I think that psi and arcane/divine spells should be treated as two separate entities, and that resistance should not necessarily apply retroactively to each other except for at a base level. Basic Spell Resistance applies to Psychic Resistance at half-rate; a psychic can penetrate a mage’s defenses and vice versa unless each takes measures to prevent the other from gaining the upper hand. On the other side, mages would split their resources and thus require outside assistance to boost their abilities to defend against their own kind. A clever ornithologist (a talented awakener) began working on a creature which could do just this. That creature is known as a councilor bird.

Councilors look like large Kingfishers (around the size of an owl or similar) with bright blue or purple plumage. Mages take on councilors as familiars and cohorts; though unable to speak in human tongues councilors have the ability to communicate in a piercing shrill and, as mages and others who obtain them as familiars will denote, they have a very intelligent and observant way of thinking and can understand common tongues. A councilor bird’s greatest talent, however, is its sweet song. In effect, councilor birds can perform countersong as a bard of half of their master’s level. Some councilors, who are usually known as Imperial councilors, gain rudimentary spellcasting abilities. These birds usually are trained as adepts, and serve as fine henchmen to mages or others who may need a boost up against those who would attempt to charm or cajole them through the use of sonic magic.

Councilors live as long as Grey parrots, but only Imperial councilors may gain class levels, and there are a handful of these birds who actually become talented mages or bards (though do to their size they rarely use material components unless they have an aid who can present them with the materials to use).

The Grey Ways is more difficult, and derives from good ol’ fashioned spell resistance. Remember the types of spell resistance when even good effects were stopped? Yeah . . . good times. The Grey Ways and their practitioners have culled these abilities in new and frightening ways. The first skill that Grey Walkers master is the ability to protect their charges; like shield guardians (or d20 Modern Bodyguards) Grey Walkers can absorb some of the damage that their superiors would normally take (we kept with the Shield Other level of half damage). The greater talent lies in the Grey Walkers ability to manipulate its spell resistance.

Grey Walkers are required to have some form of spell resistance. Most take it through a basic route (they are treated as Hagborn) but they can impart their resistance towards a target. At first they learn to shield their master; then they learn to channel that resistance through their weapons, actually reducing a rival’s spell resistance. Next, they learn to ‘disrupt’ spells (similar to the mage slayer feat against magical concealment and AC) with focused dispelling abilities. Their greatest ability, however, is suppression of the magic items which are carried by their enemies. In all, Grey Walkers are an excellent NPC Class for the guardian of a mage, which by level 13-15 should be able to cause major problems for someone who enjoys using their Staff of Power and Robes of Awesomeness.

At some point I will present the effects presented by different Grey Walkers, and give a Level appropriate ‘replacement’ slot for the ability. Grey Walkers are never mages; rather, they serve as warriors (or, in the very rare case of a failed Sucuran initiate, psychic warriors or Book of Nine Swords styled warriors).
These are just here as concepts . . . mix and match as you will. I’m going to step away from the Ostari in the next few posts, and focus on more advice blogs and shorter posts. If you have any comments please leave those . . . I always enjoy hearing good feedback.

Good Gaming,



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