Monday, January 2, 2012

Magic and Orcs in Garnia World

The art and science of magic, how it is influenced by the powers of good and evil and a few other notes on it's relative effectiveness.

After talking with Darryl on the phone the other night we had a pretty productive talk about magic, the how and why of it, both divine and arcane; honestly not my favorite topic, but it was a breakthrough conversation. What it all comes down to is that Arcane spell-casters of the traditional variety are like magical scientists. Divine spell-casters tap into the same source of magic through their faith. The magical power is the same in both cases, it's just how it is accessed that is different. Darryl also postulated that there could be and should be natural spell-casters, like the Sorcerer class from 3e; I actually don't really have a problem with this, but it is going to require some creative working in on my part, or our parts, to make it fit a more old school D&D system; by which I mean create a Sorcerer class for B/X or AD&D. I suppose the key important note here is that it means that there really doesn't need to be a separate spell list for each class, although that option remains available if, as DM, you want it so.

Now, the parts that are less well thought out, but still noteworthy. We mentioned before that there were magic rich, magic poor and magic dead areas in Garnia World. This isn't a unique idea, they had them in the Forgotten Realms too, so I should probably look into how they worked there and see if I can just copy that system or if it was stupid and I'll have to make my own. I was thinking along the idea of Ley Lines, and that Frodia, in particular, just happened to be sitting at a strong conjunction of Ley Lines and that's why the Sidhe empire built their schools of Wizardry there, and why the Frodians are such powerful Wizards themselves. I am also thinking there may be "Magic Tides" for lack of a better term, times when magic across the world is either at stronger or weaker levels, but this is a level of detailed complexity that can be left up to an individual DM running a Garnia campaign to track if he wants to.

Good and Evil zones; EGG mentions these in the 1st edition AD&D DMG, mostly about how it's harder to turn undead or make saving throws in an Evil temple, I expand this a little bit in Garnia to include some larger geographical areas that have been corrupted by the forces of evil.

Ritual spell casting. Honestly I don't know why this has been absent from D&D since the dawn of time, but I understand it is present in Carcosa and in 4th edition D&D (neither of which I have, although I understand Carcosa is a very good product), I intend to bring it in to Garnia. I sent Darryl a link to someone's website where they had essentially stripped 4th edition's version down to an OD&D context and it ended up looking a lot like Chainmail's Fantasy Supplement Rules for spell casting, I am not sure if that's the take on it that I'd go with but if I can dig it up again I'll take a look at it and give it a test; as I recall it was mostly that it cast directly from the spellbook any spell and cost extra time and money(components). I was also thinking of an evil variant where you could recharge your magic through sacrifices, but I haven't worked it out at all yet. I got the idea from watching my son play Skyrim and he recharges his Mana all the time with the souls of his slain enemies, it creeps me out.

Now, this all makes the Orc kingdom in what used to be part of Northern Garnia make a little more sense, if you take a few things as given. First, that Orcs are tougher than standard Humans and both Breed faster and grow to maturity quicker (remember this world was built on 1st edition AD&D at it's core, so some of the AD&D-isms just aren't going away no matter how RPG rules neutral I try and make the setting). Second, Orcs are LAWFUL Evil, which means they are well organized. Third, and I have always made this assumption, some Orcs can level up; it makes sense, they get tougher tribal leaders and their bodyguards/champions (Fighters) and both Shamans (Clerics) and Witch-Doctors(Cleric/Magic-Users). Fourth, they have average intelligence, although leaning towards the low end, so probably a -1 on their INT stat.

So, if we add the magic rules proposed, their religion is evil. They live to dominate and love cruelty, so that could taint an area with their foulness rather quickly. That gives them an Evil bonus in their geographical area. If they get the bonus of ritual casting, they could be practicing foul rituals pretty much non-stop, to protect the area they control. If we give them the proposed Evil sacrifice bonus, then that probably makes up for the fact that their spell-casters are generally going to be not as proficient as Humans, they can recharge more frequently for more effectiveness to protect and expand their domain. Add on top of that they can breed with pretty much everything*, the only thing specifically excluded in the 1st edition AD&D MM is Elves, and they have a ready 5th column of spies and assassins** to extend their reach and the more powerful hybrids to help defend their lands. I also kind of leaned a little more heavily towards the Uruk-Hai version of the Orc than the standard AD&D version when I made these guys a kingdom, so maybe they should be considered more like 2nd edition Orogs instead? Not so much because I really need them to be tougher, but because they have an above ground kingdom and having a -1 to hit all day, every day pretty much sucks; although their infravision means that night time raids are going to be both common and effective tactics, so maybe that cancels out.

So, the only question then is what do we name this Orcish kingdom? I was thinking Ríocht na Fir Muc (Kingdom of the Pig-Men), because I am firmly in the Pig-Faced Orcs camp, or Talamh Chaill (Lost Lands), because it's kind of sad and poetic. Both of those are modern Gaelic and will need to be Garnianized, but they are close now for comparison.

*Specifically mentioned are Goblins, Hobgoblins and Humans. The Ogrillon in the FF is an Orc/Ogre cross breed that passes for Orc. The Mongrelman in the MM II is specifically mentioned as being part Orc. EGG mentioned in his Gord the Rogue books that Orcs bred with Baboons to create "Losels", appearing in the "Mammal" entry in the 2nd edition AD&D Monstrous Manual. Apparently Orcs are worse than drunken frat boys and 50 times as fertile. For the purposes of Garnia, lets assume that they can't breed with Dwarves or Halflings or any other inherently Good Aligned race, it seems logical, all of the examples of their cross breeds are either from Evil species or Neutral ones, Humans included.

**10% of 1/2 Orcs pass as members of their non-Orcish parent species.

And now, a bunch of pictures of what Orcs are supposed to look like, rather than that Games Workshop or World of Warcraft nonsense.


  1. Ritual Spell casting has been part of D&D variants, like the Rune Weavers of Arduin, since the late 70's.

  2. Perhaps the Orcs corrupt their lands by using ritual magic to generate perpetual overcast conditions to the point that they can function without the -1 penalty?

  3. the overcast thing isn't a bad idea

  4. @Sylvaeon- I haven't seen the earliest Arduin stuff, my earliest Arduin Grimoire is VI, and it's from 1986.

    @Niles & Darryl- No, it's not a bad idea. How well do crops grow in constantly overcast conditions? I'd think OK, since we seem to well enough here in upstate NY, but I guess the overcast isn't really constant. I only ask because the Orcs have a significant Human population in their realm, reduced to serfdom of course, but they still have to eat too.

    Welcome to the project everybody!

  5. Good luck on the project...
    This looks extremely promising!