Archive for July, 2011

Just Gimme GP (That’s What I Want)

July 30, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reactions I received to Death of a Die Roll; apparently, quite a few people like the idea of playing Pathfinder with an old-school feeling. Given that, let’s stay on this particular train of thought for a bit and focus on the actual motivations that PCs tended to have back in the proverbial day.

Pathfinder, and D&D before it, is a game about playing heroes…but there’s a perception that in previous editions of the game, PCs had a more mercenary bent. This didn’t mean that they killed purely for coin, of course, but rather than striking it big and become rich was a larger motivation for PCs; often, it was why they had struck out as adventurers to begin with.

Few know that Uncle Pennybags made his fortune killing kobolds.

There’s nothing wrong with playing this type of character. Oftentimes, adventures are constructed in such a way that even if your character feels no moral obligation to go slay evil, the stakes are high enough that they’ll suffer if they don’t take action. When the world is going to be devastated by the meteor that is being pulled towards it, for example, that isn’t really a problem you can ignore, even if you have no shred of altruism.

Leaving aside that even greedy characters are motivated by necessity and self-preservation, however, is an unspoken aspect to playing a PC that’s just in it for the money – how much money is enough? After all, a greedy character is generally presumed to be trying to achieve enough to be independently wealthy, but how much money does that take? Let’s crunch some numbers.

Greedy Bastards are Fi-douche-iary

In order to figure out how much money a character needs to retire and live a carefree life of luxury, we first need to define a few things.

First, what constitutes “luxury”? Well, according to Pathfinder’s rules for cost of living, an “extravagant” lifestyle is 1,000 gp per month. Sure, we could go for “wealthy,” which is only 100 gp/month, but if your character wants to be able to live in the lap of luxury, why not go for the highest rating (that said, reduce all of the following totals by 90% if your character just wants to be wealthy for the rest of his life, rather than extravagant)? So, your character needs to square away 1,000 gp per month, or 12,000 gp per year every year for the rest of his life.

How long will that be, though? Let’s turn our attention to Pathfinder’s age rules. Right away, one thing should become clear: longer-lived races will need to acquire more money, simply because they’ll need to sustain themselves longer.

Now, let’s take an extreme look at the age ranges and get some initial figures. If we take the earliest possible starting age for each race (that is, in the Random Starting Ages table, taking the “adulthood” age and adding the minimum result possible from the “barbarian, rogue, sorcerer” column), and subtract it from the maximum result possible in the “maximum age” column of the Aging Effects table, multiplying the result by 12,000 gp, we get the following:

  • Humans will need to pay for 94 years, costing 1,128,000 gp.
  • Dwarves will need to pay for 403 years, costing 4,884,000 gp.
  • Elves will need to pay for 636 years, costing 7,632,000 gp.
  • Gnomes will need to pay for 456 years, costing 5,472,000 gp.
  • Half-elves will need to pay for 164 years, costing 1,968,000 gp.
  • Half-orcs will need to pay for 65 years, costing 780,000 gp.
  • Halflings will need to pay for 178 years, costing 2,136,000 gp.

Okay, so these are a fairly good baseline, but we can do better. For one thing, we’re assuming the longest lifespan possible (and that this wealth will be acquired almost immediately upon hitting adulthood). Let’s trim that a bit; we’ll keep the standard we used to generate a character’s minimum possible adventuring age, but this time we’ll figure that a character will live to their race’s average lifespan (taking the average die rolls given in the aforementioned “maximum age” column). This trims things a bit, giving us the following:

  • Humans will need to pay for 75 years, costing 900,000 gp.
  • Dwarves will need to pay for 308 years, costing 3,696,000 gp.
  • Elves will need to pay for 438 years, costing 5,256,000 gp.
  • Gnomes will need to pay for 307 years, costing 3,684,000 gp.
  • Half-elves will need to pay for 135 years, costing 1,620,000 gp.
  • Half-orcs will need to pay for 56 years, costing 672,000 gp.
  • Halflings will need to pay for 130 years, costing 1,560,000 gp.

Okay, now these numbers are a little more accurate. We’re still erring on the side of a longer life by presuming that they’ll strike it rich in their first year of adventuring, but given how most campaigns seem to take place in a year of game-time, this isn’t a bad idea.

Now, we mentioned that these numbers are achieved by taking the cost of living an extravagant lifestyle every month for the rest of their lives. But what if there’s some sort of disaster with their finances? What if the character lives longer than expected? The above numbers are a bare-bones estimate, and any financially-conscious character should have at least a slight cushion to catch them in the event of something unforeseen. So, let’s increase each of the previous totals by 20%:

  • Humans will want to achieve 1,080,000 gp.
  • Dwarves will want to achieve 4,435,200 gp.
  • Elves will want to achieve 6,307,200 gp.
  • Gnomes will want to achieve 4,420,800 gp.
  • Half-elves will want to achieve 1,944,000 gp.
  • Half-orcs will want to achieve 806,400 gp.
  • Halflings will want to achieve 1,872,000 gp.

Now those numbers are more conducive to living a long and comfortable life. But let’s go one step further; let’s assume that your PC isn’t a junior accountant carefully tabulating the costs for his dream life. Let’s instead presume that your character has a single figure in mind, and is working towards that. It’s still based off of what he needs to retire as a rich man with a long life ahead of him, but it’s not quite so academic in mind. Hence, we’ll round the above numbers off to the nearest whole, giving us our finally tally.

So, all things being equal, if your character wants to retire young and live a rich life, he’ll be adventuring to try and make the following amount:

Humans will want to earn 1,000,000 gp.

Dwarves and Gnomes will want to earn 4,500,000 gp.

Elves will want to earn 6,500,000 gp.

Half-elves and Halflings will want to earn 2,000,000 gp.

Half-orcs will want to earn 800,000 gp.

One Rich Witch…or Fighter, Oracle, Rogue, etc.

The above totals are pretty astronomical, even for a character that campaigns from 1st-level all the way to 20th. According to the Character Wealth By Level table, only the half-orc would meet his financial goal by 20th level, and even then he’d have to liquidate almost everything to do it. Hence, there’s little reason to worry that a PC will suddenly meet these goals and decide to retire, leaving the rest of the party (who wants to keep adventuring) in a lurch. (Though, that possibility becomes more likely if you, as noted above, reduced the above to 1/10th of the listed values and retired at the “wealthy” level.)

The reason to max out your ranks in Swim.

Even if your character does retire, however, that doesn’t mean they have to stop adventuring; remember, major-threats demand a response. Likewise, smaller but more personal events can force an adventurer out of retirement as well – for example, while your retired character might not be so rich as to be on The Forbes Fictional 15, he’ll still have enough wealth to attract thieves. Your character fought hard for his wealth, and it just might turn out that staying wealthy is just as difficult as earning it.

Finally, there are other methods of adventuring, such as entering the arena of politics. One needn’t wield a sword to do battle, after all, and that’s especially true where money is concerned.

Even after raiding many dungeons and finding lost treasure after lost treasure, a character can find more excitement and danger in retirement than he ever did while adventuring.

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Death of a Die Roll

July 17, 2011

One of the most difficult things to chart in a role-playing game with as rich a history as Pathfinder (since I see it as having a direct connection to previous editions of D&D) is a shift in attitude that gamers as a whole seem to have toward the game…and indeed, the attitude that the game seems to have about itself.

That such a shift has happened at all is fairly self-evident; the existence of the Old-School Renaissance is proof enough of that. However, identifying exactly what values and characteristics these differing attitudes have is something that no one really seems to be able to agree on. Some say that it’s about the mechanics, while others say it’s the play-style of the GM and/or the players. Others say it’s both to some degree. Still others have some other definition altogether.

Were I to guess, I’d say that everyone’s right to some degree. Likely, the change in rules changed how people looked at the game over time, though in ways that are difficult to articulate. However, I think that one of those changes was perhaps more fundamental than anyone’s given it credit for – the method of generating character attributes.

From Rolling Dice to Counting Beans

Back in the days of Second Edition (when I started playing the game) you rolled your ability scores. Now, my memory of 2E is largely fogged by over a decade of not looking at that edition’s Player’s Handbook, but I don’t recall there being a point-buy option presented there; even if there was, it was pretty clearly de-emphasized. You just rolled 3d6 and assigned them to your ability scores.

This attitude – that you randomly determined your attributes and had to make do with what the dice gave you – is one that I think set the tone for the whole game. You certainly had an idea for who you wanted your character to be, but that idea was then modified by your attributes (and, since this was in the day when classes had ability score requirements to take levels in them, you could very well need to radically change your character concept if you didn’t get the scores necessary to joining a given class), and you re-shaped your character accordingly.

Don't mock it; that kid went on to become the Gray Mouser.

It was rare, from what I remember, that this forced a player to completely abandon a given idea for a character. Being able to assign the numbers you generated to your ability scores meant that you could put your highest score towards a given class’s prime requisite (the attribute most directly tied to the class, and usually with a minimum score to take levels in it). However, it did require some fine-tuning – if you described your character as being exceptionally cunning (Wisdom), very personable (Charisma), and quick on his feat (Dexterity; all traits a good rogue would have), but then found you only had two good ability scores, you’d have to rethink your character a bit, since he wouldn’t be all three of those.

This had broader repercussions, in the form of the sort of thinking it encouraged about your character. PCs were shaped by the events of the game, and didn’t always get to pick-and-choose everything about them as they leveled up. Your ability scores, for example, were pretty much set at the time of character creation – there were extremely few ways to raise them. Magic item shops didn’t exist, and crafting magic items was difficult and draining (the one making them permanently lost points of Constitution in doing so), so you pretty much had only what you’d earned in dungeon delves.

It’s also important to remember what wasn’t there. Feats hadn’t been thought up yet, and the closest things to skills were “proficiencies” which were much more binary – you either had them or you didn’t.

All of this added up to the idea of your character as being – from a mechanical standpoint – a fairly static creation. Hit points and saves went up, as did your ability to hit things and prepare spells, but by and large your character defined him- or herself through what happened in the context of the game world. Your plans for your character consisted of the things he wanted to do, rather than the mechanics you wanted to take.

That doesn’t seem to be quite as true now. In an era where sourcebooks have proliferated wildly via the OGL, where there’s a robust point-buy system for character creation, and where the mechanics of building PCs have taken front-and-center, the mentality of the game has changed as well. Not being able to play a particular character concept to a “T” has changed from being seen as part of the game to being a flaw. Before, the adversity in developing who you wanted your PC to be was part of the fun – now it’s seen as something that takes away from said fun.

At this point, fans of Pathfinder might think I’m picking on it. After all, the Core Rulebook describes many different methods of character generation, with the point-buy method being just one among many. Similarly, issues of magic item shops and magic item creation feats are fairly easily solved house-ruled at the game table. The issue isn’t that Pathfinder itself is bad in any way, just that it lends itself to a certain style of gaming. Other styles require some tweaking.

Old-School Pathfinder

So how then would you go about tweaking the game to give it more of an “old-school” feeling? I’m no member of the OSR, but I’d recommend the following list of changes.

  1. Roll for ability scores – the exact method of dice-generated ability scores is less important than using it at all, and allows for degrees of freedom here. From 3d6 to 4d6-and-drop-the-lowest to a pool of 24d6 and assign a number of dice to each ability score before rolling, there are a lot of ways to let fate determine just who your character will be.
  2. Close off easy access to magic items – Eliminate magic item shops in the game world. PCs may still buy and sell magic items, but that’ll be on an individual basis with NPCs they meet, rather than being perfunctory shopping. Likewise, remove item creation feats from the game. This essentially makes every magic item a minor artifact (and requires some in-game explanation for how these magic items were made in the first place), and similarly requires the GM to think much more carefully about what magic items are placed where (alternately, just use randomly-generated magic items if you really want to let the dice fall where they may).
  3. Eliminate ability score boosters – Buffs that inflate ability scores are one of the easiest ways to power-up characters. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it tends to devalue other things – like a barbarian’s rage or the ability point gained every four levels – that provide bonuses at greater cost. Eliminate the ability score buffing spells like cat’s grace, owl’s wisdom, and magic items that grant similar bonuses.
  4. Assign ability score prerequisites to character classes – this one is likely to be somewhat controversial, as it has the possibility of closing off class choices a player may want. The list of ability score prerequisites below is entirely generated by me, and also includes two other rules. First, a character’s favored class is always the class they take at 1st level. Second, if a character wants to multiclass into another class, they must have ability scores at least 2 points higher than that class’s ability score prerequisites…splitting your focus takes incredible dedication, and is not easily done. (e.g. a fighter under this system who wants to multiclass into wizard would need an Intelligence of at least 14, rather than 12.)

Ability Score Prerequisites by Class

Alchemist: Intelligence 14. Requiring not only insight into arcane forces but also blending them into physical concoctions, an alchemist must have intelligence without peer.

Barbarian: Strength 14, Wisdom 12. Barbarians are powerhouses, but at the same time have a strong will that allows them to contain or unleash an overpowering rage as they desire.

Bard: Charisma 14. Bards are well-known for being exceptionally outgoing and personable.

Cavalier: Strength 12, Charisma 14. A leader of men, the cavalier requires the personal appeal to lead men into battle, and the muscle to fight alongside them.

Cleric: Wisdom 12. Those who would serve the gods need the insight necessary to understand their will.

Druid: Wisdom 14. Serving the inscrutable forces of nature, an abstract force rather than a sentient deity, requires a greater understanding of both one’s self and the world.

Fighter: Strength 12. Fighters need to be tougher – albeit not too much tougher – than ordinary people in order to be effective combatants.

Inquisitor: Wisdom 14, Charisma 12. Inquisitors must have a deeper understanding of their religion to be able to spot heretics, and require a degree of personal insight to find hidden corruptions of the spirit.

Magus: Strength 12, Intelligence 14. A magus must have a strong arm to be a proficient martial master, and and even greater intellect to not only learn spellcasting with a split focus, but also blend their magic into their swordplay.

Monk: Dexterity 12, Wisdom 12. Monks are fleet of foot and strong in spirit to follow a life of personal asceticism and discipline.

Oracle: Charisma 14. Unlike clerics, oracles are picked by the gods to be their servant, and made to suffer a curse for their power. They must have a strong personality to endure their curse and understand why they were chosen.

Paladin: Strength 12, Wisdom 14, Charisma 14. Paladins are paragons among men, having not only strength of arms, but great wisdom so as to better understand the will of their god, and great personal magnetism to let them better serve as a shining example among their fellow man.

Ranger: Strength 12, Wisdom 14. Rangers mix the martial prowess of the fighter with the druid’s insight of nature, blending them into a deadly whole.

Rogue: Dexterity 12. Among those who’d make their living in a questionable manner, those who aren’t quick tend to be among the dead.

Sorcerer: Charisma 12. Being able to tap into the power of one’s bloodline first requires that you have the strength of personality to know yourself.

Summoner: Charisma 14. A strong personality is necessary to have one’s best friend be a conjured monster.

Witch: Intelligence 14. Few are those who can understand the secrets taught by a familiar on behalf of an unknown patron, and learn the ways of ill-understood hexes and curses.

Wizard: Intelligence 12. Being able to study and master eldritch forces demands an intellect above that of the common man.

One question that might come up is what about the people in the game world who don’t meet any of these class prerequisites – after all, none of these have a score lower than 12, but the average ability scores are 10 and 11. The answer is simple: those people take levels in NPC classes, as those have no prerequisites.

Seriously, for me that shirt would be all 18s.

In the event that a player happens to roll so low that they can’t take any class (that is, they don’t get a score higher than 11), allow them to discard that character and roll up a new one. You can have the previous attempt be an NPC they knew or something similar.

Finally, in the event that something happens to a PC’s ability scores (e.g. ability damage or ability drain), nothing happens to their class abilities. It’d be too difficult, and too punitive, to have them lose access to their class abilities in the event that their ability scores were reduced.

Building Character

Virtually all of this article has focused around eliminating ways for PCs to inflate their ability scores. That isn’t meant to imply that higher attributes are the source of problems with the game, just that they tend to suggest a focus on power-building rather than letting the character’s experiences shape who they are (a focus that many good gamers can and do ignore, for what it’s worth).

By making these changes, hopefully you’ll be able to take some of the spotlight off of how powerful your character is, and instead help to encourage just what they can do. They say that heroes are made, not born…but at the game table, heroes aren’t made by mix-maxed ability scores and careful magic item purchases – they’re made from adventures.

It’s A Kind of Magic, Part 4 – Language

July 4, 2011

One of the most notable parts of spellcasting is the verbal component. Yes, there are dramatic gestures and it’s surely odd to see someone waving around random junk, but the shouted words are the most dramatic part. From “abracadabra” to “expelliarmus,” what we remember is the verbal incanting that triggers the spell.

But what’s the significance of the words? Does the language really matter? And for that matter, what language is it, exactly? For all the different ways to look at the language of magic, Pathfinder is silent on the issue. So then we’ll have to insert a few choice words in hopes of actually saying something.

Here is the language of magic in your Pathfinder game.

A Word of Warning

In previous instances of this series, we were looking at ways to describe the in-game nature of how magic is described in the Pathfinder game rules. This time around, things are going to be a little different. For this article, we’ll be looking at some alternate game rules to help promote the in-character changes we discuss.

For the most part, the game-world fluff changes in this article can be used without any major mechanical changes. Rather, the alternate rules we’ll be talking about help to reinforce the importance of the alterations we’ll be making. Pathfinder, like any role-playing game, works best when the fluff and the crunch support each other; hence these tweaks.

Foreword

Before we get into issues of the language for how spells are verbalized, we need to take a step back and look at how language itself is treated in Pathfinder, which lays down the foundation for verbal spellcasting.

Unfortunately, the results aren’t very promising. While abstraction is a natural part of the game, language in Pathfinder is, in a word, gimped. Reduced to a single skill, with each skill point spent earning spoken and written fluency in a given language – to say nothing of magic that makes communication quick and easy – is only half the problem. The other half is that the languages themselves are reduced to little more than near-universal racial tongues, with no sense of interconnectedness or development.

So yeah, we’re going to have to make some changes.

The Mechanics of Talking the Talk

For this section, there’s a particular third-party product that I turn to for inspiration. Ars Lingua, from Tangent Games, is a 3.5 product that nevertheless works great in Pathfinder. We’re going to be looking to it for inspiration in regards to how to make languages have a bit more variety.

The first thing to do is throw away and replace all of the mechanics that de-emphasize the importance of language in the game world. That means ditching the Linguistics skill. In its place, we’re going to import the Speak Language and Read/Write Language skills.

Moreover, each of these skills is separate for a given language. That is, when you first take a rank in one of these skills, you note which particular language it’s for. Having 5 ranks in Speak Language (elven) doesn’t count for anything towards Speak Language (dwarven), and certainly not towards Read/Write Language of any given language.

Now, a few caveats must be made clear with this system. First, these are trained-only, Intelligence-based skills. Second, all characters who had Linguistics as a class skill have both of these as class skills (optionally, NPC classes – and barbarians – only have Speak Language as a class skill if they had Linguistics as a class skill). Third, at character creation, each character receives a number of bonus skill ranks in Speak Language and Read/Write Language equal to their Intelligence score, for each skill. This denotes their native language (again, NPC classes and barbarians may choose to omit the free ranks in Read/Write Language). Finally, both of these skills officially have no cap on the number of ranks you can have – your ranks may exceed your level without penalty.

A few more things must be said about these replacement skills. First, you are considered fluent in these skills when your total skill bonus reaches +20 (which will usually mean you reach full fluency with less than 20 ranks). Second, most functions of the discarded Linguistics skill are used with the relevant Speak Language or Read/Write Language skill check. For example, trying to detect a forgery written in Elven would be a Read/Write Language (elven) skill check.

And this is all I have to say about somatic components

One other thing worth noting is that Ars Lingua does showcase tables for standard DCs for both of these skills to showcase how much you understand on a given check. For example, it’s a DC 5 Speak Language check to understand simple phrases like “Where is the bathroom?” On the other hand, it’s a DC 25 Speak Language check to use technical terms for a special area of knowledge (e.g. being able to speak and understand medical lingo). There’s more to this, but I’ve already given away quite a bit of the book’s material.

Having done all of that, we’re also going to get rid of the spells read magic, comprehend languages, and tongues, as well as all related magic items (e.g. the helm of comprehend languages and read magic). It makes little point to play up language if we’re going to have magic negate all of the intricacies of it, after all. However, you may want to keep monstrous abilities that bypass language – such as truespeech and telepathy – if you want your monsters with those powers to seem otherworldly.

Okay, so now that we’ve created a subset of rules that lend more weight to languages in the game, how do we make the game world reflect this?

The Fluff of Talking the Talk

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be done with reskinning the existing languages in the context of the game…right? Well, no, not really. First things first, the naming conventions for languages are pretty silly. In the real world, languages are largely named based on their country or region of origin, i.e. they speak German in Germany. But in the Pathfinder RPG, languages are racial. Elves speak Elvish, no matter where they were raised.

So the first thing to do is ditch racial languages; instead, appoint various languages as the major languages for the various countries/regions in your game world. Don’t worry if you want to appoint more than one, several countries in the real world have two or more major languages. Likewise, this doesn’t set what your character has to have as their native language; plenty of families, often immigrants, speak another language and raise their children to speak that one first.

The next step is trickier. This involves charting language families and determining what languages are related to each other. This is important because it will (at the GM’s discretion) allow a bonus on Speak Language and Read/Write Language checks for related languages. For simplicity’s sake, you can have all related languages use the same alphabet so that the written forms keep the same degree of similarity. Don’t be afraid to have languages that are completely divorced from all other languages. Finally, sketch out some dead languages for good measure.

 Loquamancy

At this point, you might be wondering just what all of this has to do with the verbal component of casting a spell. That’s a fair question, so we’re going to bring things back around to that point now. This part of this article was influenced from some of the ideas found in Wild Hunt Studio’s book The Way of the Magus – On Language and Research.

First, we’re going to operate under the assumption that the spoken words used to cast a spell aren’t some sort of special magical language – in fact, we’re going to go one step further and presume that the actual language used in spellcasting really isn’t that important; one works just as well as another.

What’s important to take away from this, however, is that various magical traditions (usually geographically-based) will use one specific language – oftentimes a particular ancient, dead language – as the language of spellcasting. For example, the wizards of Draedoria might teach their students only in Estic, a language that has been dead for over a thousand years. Hence, when spellcasting, wizards from Draedoria speak Estic as their verbal component, despite their normal language for everyday speech being Veltine.

The game mechanics of this are reflected in that characters taking their first level in a spellcasting class – just like new characters – gain automatic ranks equal to their spellcasting ability score (e.g. Intelligence for wizards, Charisma for sorcerers, etc.) in Speak Language and Read/Write Language for the language of their spellcasting class. Optionally, classes that don’t need a written source in order to prepare spells (e.g. a sorcerer) may not get the Read Language ranks.

The reason for this is that it creates a sense of regional (or other group) identity among spellcasters. Realizing that someone is speaking a given language while casting a spell gives you a clue to their identity. It’s worth noting that the nature of the organization the spellcaster belongs to varies depending on what sort of spellcaster they are. Wizards might be regional, but clerics will use a given religious language as taught in their church.

Finally your spellbooks can be more intricate than this.

Sorcerers, it should be noted, are generally hinted at being persecuted in the game world for their spontaneous magical powers. Using these rules adds an additional reason for it – unlike studious wizards, who learn their country’s language for spellcasting, sorcerers just suddenly start speaking a particular language when their powers manifest. If it’s from a hostile country, for instance, or is known as the tongue of parts of the Abyss, then it’s no wonder people look askance at the powers sorcerers command!

Bards, by contrast, would also likely know a foreign tongue for spellcasting, but in this case people would likely forgive them that simply because they’re itinerant by profession, so it’s natural that they’d have picked up their spellcasting somewhere else. This isn’t absolute, of course; if a bard’s language for spellcasting is that used by wizards of a nation that’s at war with another nation, people in that other nation won’t be too keen on that particular bard (if they hear him cast spells).

One idea that characters may have is to, since the actual language used isn’t too important when spellcasting, try casting in a foreign language. This is possible, but extremely difficult, since the character needs to precisely and quickly rattle off what’s likely a difficult set of verses, all in a foreign tongue. This should likely be a Speak Language check at a high DC (perhaps 15 + double the spell level), with failure meaning the spell is lost.

Meaning

One thing that hasn’t been addressed so far is the actual meaning of the words being spoken, regardless of the language their spoken in, when casting a spell. In fact, this isn’t very important; the metaphysical nature of shaping ambient energy into specific effects likely means that the words spoken will be esoteric in nature. Though there’s doubtless a connection between the words and why a spell acts like it does, that’s more philosophical than practical.

One of the best examples of this is found in the anime Bleach (yes, yes, it’s an anime reference for table-top role-playing; just move on). The verbal incantation to invoke the black coffin spell, which apparently crushes an enemy with gravity, is as follows:

Seeping crest of turbidity.

Arrogant vessel of lunacy!

Boil forth and deny!

Grow numb and flicker!

Disrupt sleep!

Crawling queen of iron!

Eternally self-destructing doll of mud!

Unite!

Repulse!

Fill with soil and know your own powerlessness!

Now THAT’S what it should sound like when you incant a spell. Just put that in a foreign language, and it’s appropriately strange and mystic enough to sound like you’re working real magic.

A Few Words More

Although it goes beyond the scope of language in magic, one further way to emphasize the difference between spellcasters of different countries, religions, and other groups is to make thematic spell lists for each such group. This is a lot of work, of course, but it lends a great deal of cultural distinction to magical practitioners. If the fireball spell is known as an invention of Draedoria, and you see somebody cast that spell while speaking Estic, you can bet where that wizard was trained, which can lead to all kinds of intrigue.

Making spell lists that are customized by country (or other boundary) is tricky, however. Don’t trim them down too narrowly or the PCs will quickly go beyond the spells that are considered “patriotic.” This especially means don’t theme them by school, since that virtually guarantees that characters will learn spells that are outside of the national paradigm for spellcasting. It might be a good idea to establish a large number of spells as universal – that is, they’ve been around so long that they aren’t regarded as belonging to any particular group – and make the cultural spell lists smaller.

Afterword

With this, we conclude the It’s A Kind of Magic series of articles. Hopefully it’s given you some good material for your home game, and if not then I hope you at least enjoyed reading these ideas. Remember, spellcasting in Pathfinder might be mechanical to us, but to your characters, it’s magic!