Magic, sorcery, and strange miracles, are the beating heart of the game: the bizarre fluctuations of power beyond the laws of normal reality, mystically glowing runes of unknown meaning and deadly portent; the auguries of bird-flocks and fallen stones; arcane incantations that twist the mind when memorized and scorch the throat when spoken; dusty tomes in forgotten libraries; knowledge that can melt the very soul of the incautious reader…
The world is drenched in the tides and isolated lakes of magical power. A great deal of this is ancient and deadly; only a very small portion of the vast pattern can be harnessed into the shape of mere spells, formulae spat out by rote memory. As difficult as it is for a mere human to grasp and control the powers of a Magic-User, most spells are still no more than a feeble shortcut into the depthless powers of true magic. The greatest wizards and archmages can mold and shape such terrifying powers, reaching deep into the very maelstroms of true power, able to perceive the patterns behind the planes of existence, even if these are obscured, seen only through the uncertain lens of mortal perception, and retained within the weak and fragile vessel of the mortal mind. The Magic-User attempts to harness powers far beyond the true scope of mortal understanding, using memorized formulae, gestures, and incantations, that have been meticulously recorded in books of magic. The very words and diagrams of these spells hold dreadful and incomprehensible power, as demonstrated by the fact that a Magic-User must use a spell (Read Magic) merely to read an unfamiliar magical incantation. To the untrained eye, the spells written in a spellbook are gibberish; the letters almost seem to move at the corner of the eye and the words are disturbing to the mind, the visual counterpart to fingernails dragging across a slate.
A Magic-User can only hold a certain quantity of magical power in mental, memorized reserve to be released later in the form of a spell. Indeed, it is the first warning taught to apprentice mages: that to successfully memorize a spell beyond one’s training and mental powers is the last action one will ever take as a sane human being. The mind will be utterly broken, and the vitriol of Chaos will seep into that broken vessel (if the fool is even left alive), turning the mindless husk into a thing far less, and far worse, than human.
Beyond spells, of course, lies an unfathomable realm of such magic as can be harnessed by great rituals and secret knowledge that exceed the confines of mere spells, where the Magic-User’s own mind is not the gathering point and lightning rod of vast magical energies. The creation of golems is such a task, and one which is relatively well known. Manuals for the creation of golems are rare, but they exist in lost treasure hoards and forgotten ruins. Building and animating a golem is a task that cannot be achieved by spells alone, but with the appropriate knowledge, a Magic-User can still perform such a task. Most other feats of great magic are not so well documented as the animation of golems; the creation of cloud castles and other such unique artifacts of power are lost arts, for which a Magic-User would have to do prodigious and dangerous researches at the boundaries of human knowledge – and perhaps beyond.
Clerical spellcasting is quite different from the way in which a Magic- User draws upon the complex, mindless patterns and channels of arcane power. A Cleric’s magic, by contrast, is a matter of faith and reverence; the Cleric can draw forth miracles, sometimes of truly staggering power. The number of spells that a Cleric can cast in a single day is limited and the particular spells must be selected ahead of time, but this is done through a process of prayer and meditation, not by the study of formulae in a spell book. It is said that these are “memorized,” but such is not precisely the case – “memorization” is simply the closest term that has been coined to describe the preparation of Clerical spells.
Indeed, the divine powers are inscrutable: layer upon layer of mysteries, revelations, and understandings that are peeled away slowly as the Cleric progresses to higher levels. Whether these deeper mystical realities are imparted by visions and sudden insight or whether they are taught to initiates after the prescribed achievements, they represent the ability to cast higher level spells and to commune more directly with the divine powers. Most Clerics are the servants of Law or Chaos, for these are primordial forces that infuse the very foundations of the universe and cosmos. Clerics of Law might have a patron saint or deity who intercedes between the Cleric and the ultimate power of Law, or the Cleric might simply worship Law as an abstract power. Clerics of Chaos might, similarly, commune directly with the storm-insanity of pure Chaos, or take the different path of serving powerful demon princes or blood-drenched gods. Neutral Clerics (if allowed by the Referee) must generally serve a lesser, independent supernatural power, one that has chosen to go its own way in rejection of both the stark path of Law and the dark, mad labyrinths of Chaos. In many cases, although such Neutral patrons are weaker than Law and Chaos in the cosmic sense, they can grant as much power to their mortal followers as greater entities. The difference in standing between a mortal and a great Being of Neutrality is still so extreme that any relative “weakness” on the part of the worshiped being is undetectable by the worshiper. As far as humans are concerned, these Neutral powers are just as strong as Law and Chaos in terms of what boons they can grant to their followers.
Druids, in the service of Nature and the Elements, are not Clerics; they worship and serve a Power of Neutrality rather than Law or Chaos. Druids, accordingly, have a different set of spells than true Clerics, although they “memorize” them in the same way and there is a great deal of overlap. Druidic magic, as with Clerical magic, depends upon an evolving understanding of mysteries and secrets, each of which might be dangerous to the minds or souls of those less trained or less faithful. In the case of Druids, these are usually taught to initiates as they are promoted by the higher members of the order. Although many Druids might gain levels by the means of sudden, mystical revelations, this tends to be less true of Druids than Clerics.
And what of necromancers, sorcerers, warlocks, witches, and mystics? Are these independent character classes, as the Druid is? Or are they rare sub-classes of the Magic-user and Cleric, or merely substitute names for those classes? This is for the Referee and the players to decide as together you delve into the game beyond the framework of this book. Part of the game is to press beyond the rules, to explore the undiscovered country of the fantastic realms of imagination! The rules of the game are just the beginning, and this description of magic is merely an introduction, the threshold of infinite possibilities…
Magical research is another area in which higher-level characters will begin to grow beyond the scope of the rules. Even fairly low-level Magic-Users may want to develop new spells, and higher-level Magic- Users might become involved in all kinds of research from developing potion formulae, to creating magical items, to creating golems, to breeding monsters. In general, the details of such projects are left to the Referee; they will certainly be expensive, and will probably involve finding books of lost lore (yes, in dungeons, although perhaps the Wizard has henchmen to retrieve them by this point) and strange components ranging from eye of newt up to the heart of a dragon. Special laboratories might be required, as might the services of a hired alchemist or sage. Remember that new spells should be carefully reviewed to make sure they are not too powerful—the spell’s level should reflect the spell’s power. If a spell turns out to be unexpectedly powerful to the point where it endangers the game, it is always the Referee’s prerogative to protect the game by adjusting the level of the new spell.
Before the supplements came out for the Original Game, Magic-User spells went up only to 6th level, and Cleric spells only to 5th level. In fact, if you take a look at those spell lists, you will see that the list of 6th-level Magic-User spells includes one called Limited Reincarnation, and the 5th-level Cleric spells include Raise Dead. These are pinnacle-type spells; you do not really need to power them up any further with Reincarnation and Resurrection. So, this author, as a Referee, does not use the higher level spells – at least, not as spells.
Instead, all the higher-level spells are treated as the same sort of thing as creating a golem or a cloud castle, or some other type of magical project that would require doing research, finding books, and spending gold. There are books to be found and studied, expensive arcane components to locate, particular times of the year or lunar cycle when the magic can be performed, runes to know, circles to scribe, and other strange and forbidden knowledge to be researched.
These things are bigger than mere spells that can be cast multiple times a day. For example, to summon a supernatural being, a Magic-User must use the right magic circle to hold a being of a particular name or type, and that requires research into forbidden tomes, which are likely located in a dungeon or ruin somewhere. To “cast” Resurrection (on someone who has been dead too long for a Raise Dead spell), a Cleric might have to bring the remains to a specific holy place, and seek much more assistance from other Clerics. The possibilities are vast and the author, at any rate, thinks it is more fun to limit the top end of spell power and switch the high-level spells from mere “spells” to serious undertakings of magic, requiring research, adventuring, and the expenditure of huge quantities of gold.