Monday, October 12, 2020

Half Forgotten Times (and the Nature of Magic in King of Kings)

The history of the world is divided into five ages. The first of these is the Antediluvian Age, the period after the creation of the cosmos but before the deadly and destructive Flood. The seas were dark and briny, and filled to the brim with roiling fish and crawling things. The land was the domain of beasts, with a holy city endowed by the force of truth, light, and order being the only home of humankind, with great mythic kings who ruled for centuries at a time. The depths, beneath both the surface of the earth and beneath the skin of the sea, was the realm of untruth, deceit, chaos, destruction, as it remains to this day, for the manifestation of deceit dwells beneath the world.

The depths of the ocean were ruled by antediluvian overlords of an aquatic sort, a race of imperial devonian fish who hungered constantly. They hunted each other in the deep, they cultivated innumerable types of crawling worms, they drank the evil release of the vents on the sea floor and felt invigorated by it. Their wide staring eyes gazed up at the stars, into the realm of truth and love, and they hungered for it. They learned the poetry of the stars and the burblings of the deep sea floor vents, they danced with the flowing currents of the ocean and created ancient sorcery. They used this magic to give themselves access to the land, in order to hunt the surface world for food. They delighted in the hunt, but had to return to the sea before the burning sun dried out their flesh. 

The antediluvian world of the fish lords was one of pale darkness pierced only by flashing bioluminescence and sorcerous glow. Since they could not forge metal in the deep sea, they bred tools and beasts of burden out of crustaceans and eels, living in the guts of great barnacles and riding looming oarfish and whale sharks into battle. Meanwhile, the humans of the land lived simple lives in their metropolis, with farming granted them by the force of truth and the great original cow granted them as well, but they had no metallurgy other than gold and silver, and they feared the world beyond their city walls.

The antediluvian underwater kings reached a quorum on the fate of the surface world, for they knew (albeit perhaps unconsciously) their place in the great struggle between deceit and honesty. They decided that the whole of the world should be beneath the waves, and began weaving a great spell to flood the world. There was, however, one cunning thief of the human ur-city saw in his dreams the flood overcoming them all, drowning the one thousand humans beneath the waves, drowning the original bovine, drowning all the beasts of the forest and field and choking the birds of the air as well. This thief was named Keyumars or Prometheus, and he ventured into the sea when it was at low tide and stole the sorcery of the kings of the deep dark sea. With this, the metropolis was able to safeguard itself, and safeguard all its people, and safeguard the original cow, with a great bubble surrounding its walls and its fields and its forests while the rest of the world was drowned beneath the waves. 

As the waters receded, so began the Heroic Age, or the Promethean Age, when the first magic-user Keyumars and the host of warriors with their gold armor and stone weapons traveled the land and slew any piscine demons choking on the air with the flood having receded. A single renegade prince of the sea tyrants joined them, and stood with Keyumars all his long life. This was an age of heroes and adventurers who established keeps and towns in the deeper wilderness and killed oceanic creatures still clinging to the surface. Later, Keyumars returned to the metropolis of humanity and, with his entourage of warriors, his sorcery stolen from the fish kings, and his princely piscine ally, and overthrew the last mythic king of humanity's original city. Thus begins the Age of Tyranny, and the end of this account.

Magic was initially developed for fins and crustaceoid legs, spells to be cast with the ululations of bodies and flapping of limbs. It is poetry written with visions given to the magic-user by staring into the stars above and drinking from the poisons put forth from below. It is, however, not a force of its own accord, and not truly aligned with either the forces of deceit nor of truth. Rather, sorcery is simply a tool, a tool which can be used to further selfish aims, or further the cosmic cause of chaos or the cosmic cause of truthfulness. A spell is a beautiful song which reshapes the world simply in its being sung.

The original spellcraft was devised for different eyes and different hands. The light of the stars was refracted by the dark ocean waters. When humans cast spells, they are imperfect and oftentimes incomplete. Many sounds cannot be spoken by human mouths, and the nature of starlight is rather different beneath the waves and on the earth. Sorcery is imperfect when performed by humankind. It is dangerous, it is chaotic. Attempts are made to chain it up and keep it as safe as possible, but these are never perfect in form or in application.

New spells are learned as poison-fueled visions and poems whispered into your ears in your sleep. Or they can be stolen from other sorcerers and scrawled in parchment for reference in future. A spell that you did not envision yourself or did not hear whispered into your ear feels uncomfortable to cast, as if you are plagiarizing and you know in your soul that it is wrong. Most magic-users get used to this feeling over time. Some say you will never get used to it.

And well, to make up for this long rambly mess, how about a bit of actual game content. Here's two magic-user spells for King of Kings, take them as you wish.

Expanding Eel
Level: 2
Duration: 4 turns
Range: 10'
An eel-like form is created out of dust and debris in the surrounding area. For the duration of the spell's effect, the eel-like form can double its size at the the caster's command. The eel is able to swim around the air of the magic-user out to the 10' radius. The eel deals 1d4 damage with a bite attack.

Level: 1
Duration: 15 turns
Range: The caster
The caster's mouth is filled with long needle-like teeth for the duration of the spell's effect. These glow faintly in darkness, and can be broken off without causing pain to the caster. After the spell's duration, the teeth melt into saltwater.


  1. How do you reflect the human inability to cast spells "correctly"?

    Is there a failure or miscast chance? Do spells have weird mistakes when cast by people instead of fish (like if Needlemaw actually gave you claws instead of teeth because the spell wasn't supposed to be used by people with hands)?

    Or are you representing this simply by having fishpeople generally better casters than humans?

    1. Ah, I just saw the Brineman class, and it's the third option.