Tag Archives: role-playing game

Insights into Athron: The Magic System (part III)

Continuing the theme of the magic system in Athron, I’d like to discuss some of the more miscellaneous spellcrafts. Specifically, I’d like to look at soulcraft, seercraft, deathcraft, and hellcraft as these, with the original four elemental spellcrafts, make up the most common spells used throughout Athron (well, woodcraft is pretty common, too, but I’m going to limit myself to just four spellcrafts today).


Soulcraft is primarily the art of conjuring, be it spirits or other otherworldly beings. To a certain extent it crosses over with other spellcrafts. For example, a master at spellcraft might be able to summon a demon (like in hellcraft) or a being of elemental fire (like in flamecraft) or a variety of other such entities. Its uses, except in rare cases (like when dealing with demons) are usually benign. Seercraft is another name for divination magic which, simply put, is: getting information. This can be done by casting stones, scrying through a bowl of water, or what-have-you. Like soulcraft, there is a bit of crossover with the elemental magics. Each elemental form of magic has its own limited form of augury that can be used in a pinch, but to get a thorough reading of some sort requires seercraft. Deathcraft is another name for necromancy. The field originally started as a derivative form of both soulcraft and seercraft. The first necromancers simply wanted to explore the art of obtaining information from the dead. But it soon evolved into a darker thing. Reanimating dead became the central goal of study, and from there all manner of undead were born: skeletons, ghosts, and vampires—you name it; they can all trace their origins back to deathcraft. Hellcraft is another name for demonology. It started as a derivative of soulcraft and flamecraft. The original practitioners had a bent towards evil, so, the focus was on demons and how best to harness their power. But demons are not long to be controlled; what was meant to ensnare the powers of Hell, soon came to ensnare those who sought to use it. Evil has a way of twisting back to harm its practitioner, and hellcraft is no exception. There are actually three different aspects to hellcraft for those who are foolish enough to study it: demonic conjuration, working with elemental fire, and a potpourri of other special effects including minor illusions and similar such things.


Well, that’s all I have to say about the magic system of Athron—at least, for now.

Insights to Athron: The Magic System: Spellcrafts (part II)

Today I’m going to cover part of my spell system in my world of Athron. I’ll begin with the elemental spellcrafts as those are the most common and probably the easiest to come to grips with. First, a word about spellcrafts in general. All magic is fueled by spell energy. Every spell caster has access to spell energy (in the gaming system the amount was determined by the level of skill the caster had in the appropriate spell energy). This energy can be used for three different types of tasks: 1) casting a spell, 2) inscribing a rune, or 3) making a potion. Each spellcraft has its own assets in each of these tasks. The elemental spellcrafts are flamecraft, seacraft, earthcraft, and windcraft. A character with skill in flamecraft, therefore, may be able to cast a fire-based spell, inscribe a fire-based rune, or make a fire-based potion. In the gaming system, all of these were separate skills, as was the general skill of flamecraft. At one point, I even had separate skills for every type of spell energy. For example, you had orange energy for flamecraft, blue energy for seacraft, etc … but I shortly found that that system was a bit too cumbersome for actual gaming, although I still kind of dig it.


Anyway, flamecraft (whether manifested as a spell or rune or potion) involves the manipulation of fire. Although it does not require a pre-existing flame source, it is stronger when one is nearby. A flame wizard with a torch or near a bonfire can be very dangerous. Seacraft is somewhat different. It, too, is more effective when there is a source of water nearby (although it is capable of pulling water right out of the air), but it is not completely inert without it. Seacraft involves the manipulation of water—it need not be salt water or any special kind of water, just water will do. Compared to the other elements, earthcraft and windcraft are almost always guaranteed to have an abundant source of their respective elements nearby. As such, the spells in the retinues of their respective wizards always assume the element to be present. Obviously, earthcraft manipulates earth in all its forms: mud, rock, mineral, and what-have-you. And windcraft permits the manipulation of air, nut just powerful gusts of wind. I have a fair-sized list of spells (I may or may not share these at a later date) for each of these spellcrafts. Likewise runes. And likewise potions. For example, I have spells like Fire Bolt, Continuous Inferno, etc … Readers of my novels may also recognize a few spells that recur with regularity: Earthen Hands, Fire Guardian, Earth Warrior, etc …  All told, the lists give me pretty good variety for the four basic elements.

Fantasy World Building: Game versus Novel

World Building is a concept that is common to both the role-playing game (RPG) and literature. Of particular interest is the fantasy RPG and the work of fantasy literature. RPG’s come in two varieties: computer-based (like World of Warcraft) and pen and paper (like Dungeons and Dragons). Although I have computer skills, I have never designed a computer-based RPG so I can’t really comment on that. But I do have experience designing and running my own pen and paper RPG. It is with that which I will compare writing a fantasy novel.


The first major difference between the two concerns the number of creatures. This occurred to me quite some time ago when I was reading the Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson. It’s an excellent series that I highly recommend. If you like, you can read my reviews for Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of the Ages (the first three books of the Mistborn Series). Anyway, in the series I was struck by the fact that there were only about five different types of creatures that Brandon Sanderson used. However, the more I thought about it, the more clear the reason for that became. There simply is not enough room in a novel to develop large numbers of creatures. This is because each creature requires several pages to properly introduce in a novel. Then it has to be used and applied in the plot. I would say the first time this happens, it takes about five pages or so. And a novel is only five hundred or so pages long. And each of those pages is precious and many contain other things beside creature descriptions. You have dialogue and narrative and scene descriptions. Taken together, these imply that you only have so many pages to dedicate to creature descriptions and use. Also, there is the fact that you as an author do not want to overwhelm the reader. The reader can only handle so many creatures at a time. A novel that featured fifty different types of creatures would probably do poorly because it would just confuse readers and leave them lost.


Contrast that to the role-playing game. In the RPG, variety is the spice of life. You need as many creatures as you can make. In any given gaming session, the party will likely only encounter a handful of different creatures, but through the course of their gaming career, they will likely have many different gaming sessions and since each session is and should be unique, they will likely encounter many more different creatures. In a way, it is like each individual session is roughly equivalent to a single novel. And it is the sheer volume of sessions that dictate that the players face dozens, if not hundreds, of different creatures. After all, how many monster manuals and monstrous compendiums does the D&D game put out? I honestly don’t know, I lost track somewhere along the way.


Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day.