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7/01/2016 3:19 pm  #1

Colleges of Magic

I love the Sword and Sorcery genre, but I always preferred the more magical adventures such as the Forgotten Beasts of Eld. In that end I created a list of the colleges of magic. This can give your run-of-the-mill sorcerer some needed theme, and inspire your budding magician player character.

All of the following is untested (so far) by my role-playing group. I look forward to your feedback and criticism. Enjoy!


Magical Specialty is a boon taken by characters with the Magician career, or other careers that grant arcane might and magic use. A specialist subtracts 1 from the arcane cost of any spell that is cast where their specialty applies. The downside is that such specialist understanding comes at a cost of not just a boon, but of obligations and behaviors that often conform to stereotypes.

You can only one magical specialty, ever. Once chosen it cannot be revoked, removed, or replaced. One doesn't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.

The necromancer is one who talks to and compels the dead. They focus on the past and the dead give them great insight into the nature of the afterlife, souls, spirits, and life itself.

Necromancers practice the magical art of Necromancy. The Necromancer reduces the arcane cost of any spell that directly kills (E.g.: Clenched Fist of the Crushed Heart), turns corpses into undead, affects ghosts and other spirits of the dead, and similar magic.

The Price: The Wasting.
A Necromancer's obsessions and frequent exploring of unhealthy tombs often kills them. The survivors become gaunt and emaciated but have a strange, unnatural vitality. It is readily apparent that a necromancer is at least engaged in something unhealthy and unnatural, and to the learned a necromancer’s vocation is obvious. As the wasting takes hold sensation wanes. Food tastes like ash, sweet wine tastes like stale water, and a lover's embrace is but an unwanted distraction. Their gaunt flesh takes on the aspect of the grave, becoming cool to the touch. Life is but a brief flicker before an eternity of death.

The Power: Death is not the end.
Necromancers can be killed, but they do not remain quiet in their graves. A necromancer will rise on the next new moon (or equivalent time period) as an undead. If their body is completely destroyed, they will still return but as an incorporeal wraith or specter. Incorporeal necromancers will need to possess the living to affect the material world. Once a necromancer has become undead, their obsessions overwhelm their reason.

Option #1: The new undead becomes a monster, an NPC. For extra challenge replace their fatal weakness to surprise the PCs.
Option #2: The new undead can be played, but no longer gains experience points.
Option #3: The new undead can be played, but can only gain ranks in a new career as Undead (AKA "Lich", "Wraith", "Specter", "Mummy").

Undead, being unnatural creatures, have a number weaknesses. The GM and player should agree on at least three, one of which should be instantly fatal such as if a special object is destroyed (e.g.: a lich's phylactery), the touch of natural sunlight, immersed in running water, etc.

Common Themes: deserts, tombs, skulls, items of bone or lead, asceticism, empty places the color black or gray

Villainous Plots: raise an undead army, use disease to kill everyone in a village/town/city, become an unstoppable immortal undead monster, return a loved one from the dead but creating an unnatural monster, steal the tomes of a now dead necromancer to gain insight and power, get revenge on those that killed you, restore a long-lost kingdom to existence in spite of what the current locals might want, a friend returns from exploring a tomb a changed person

Patron Missions: break open tomb and steal bodies, explore abandoned village/town/city and return with items/lore, defeat X undead and return with their brains/hearts/blood, acquire seven drops of fresh blood from a king into this vial, punish the thieves who stole a crystal skull and return with it before a great awakens

The Astrologer is one who looks to the heavens, the stars, planets, moon, and sun. Or moons and suns if your campaign has such. They are concerned with the cosmos, especially the magical emanations of the celestial bodies on inhabitants of the world. They are concerned with time, place, and fate.

Astrologers practice the magical art of Astrology, which includes Divination and Prophecy. The Astrologer reduces the arcane cost of spells by one if they deal with fate; visions of the past, present, or future; spells that invoke supernatural archetypes (E.g.: "Beauty of Venus", "Prowess of Mars") into themselves (AKA, Invocation), and spells of travel through space and/or time.

The Price: The Severing.
Astrologers focus so much on cosmic matters that day-to-day matters cease to be of concern. Their increasing knowledge of fate and its weaving between people make them isolate themselves in distant locales, often in mountaintop towers. They eliminate all who know their time and place of birth lest other Astrologers use that knowledge against them. Astrologers rarely work together as each ones manipulations of space/time/fate cause the other astrologers difficulty and sometimes physical pain.

The Power: Distance means nothing.
Astrologers become so attuned with time and space that it ceases to have meaning for their spells. If an astrologer has knowledge of a targets place of birth, the hour of their birth, and a name (even a common name or nickname), they can target that subject with the magic. This can also be used with locations such as cities. It can even be used, with GM permission (and close scrutiny), to target people or places in different times. Because of this astrologers inevitably erase their past history and take on titles such as "The Gray Sage", or "The Oracle of Delphi".

Common Themes: mountains, towers, mathematical charts, divination tools such as cards, items with runes and writings on them, items of polished silver, veils, the color blue or white

Villainous Plots: locate and defeat the astrologer who is magically attacking the king, investigate why every living person in village X was killed, defeat the astrologer that cursed you and your family, locate astologer that can life a curse on you and/or your family/clan/tribe/kingdom

Patron Missions: kill every living person in village X, go back in time and steal the Crown of the Dragon Emperor, go forward in time and get twenty of the future metal Alu-Min-Ilium, perform five seemingly random acts and get paid for it, discover the true names of a number merchants in return for having good luck forever

Hierophants use their magic to bargain, bond, or serve powerful supernatural entities, "Gods" or "Demons" if you will. These entities are powerful and nigh-unknowable, with mortal life viewed as inconsequential, food, or perhaps pets. The thaumaturge leverages this relationship into power - arcane power. They are the arch-priests of light and reason, the fanatics of the inquisition, or a bloody handed demonologist that commands a dark cult.

Hierophants practice the magical art of Thaumaturgy, which includes Evocation (AKA Summoning) and Abjuration. The Hierophant reduces the arcane cost of spells by one if they deal with evoking supernatural entities, bargaining or enslaving supernatural entities, and abjuring (preventing or destroying) any other form of ongoing arcane spell. They also can restore the dead to living with 3rd magnitude spells, but only if the dead was an initiated member of the Hierophants cult. Unspeakable Hastur can only return souls that belong to him.

The Price: Service for my Master
Hierophants are servants to a greater power, and must maintain a relationship with that power. Even hierophants who bargain between multiple powers must maintain his various pacts and promises which is why most have a single patron (e.g.: Set), or a patron and allied powers (e.g.: The Lords of Chaos), or a small group of supernatural powers (e.g.: The Olympian Gods, the Asgardian Gods). To mere mortals these demands are seem nonsensical and irrational, and sometimes (AKA often) such powers toy with their servants. A very common promise is to create and maintain a cult that worships the entity.

The Power: The Power of my Master
Hierophants can access a portion of their patron’s power. They can cast a third magnitude spell once in their life without losing a point of Arcane. Such a great miracle must be done in the name of their patron and not against its interests. Their patrons MAY allow this to happen more than once in a lifetime (i.e., with GM permission). Spells that disrupt other spells also tap into a portion of their patron, giving Hierophants an edge at abjuring (AKA dispelling) other magic. A Hierophant recovers arcane points for 2nd or 3rd magnitude spent dispelling as if they were 1st magnitude. They are still subject to permanent loss of one arcane for 3rd magnitude spells.

Common themes: cities, temples, stone idols, lists of occult names, strange languages, items of bronze or brass, the color white or purple

Villainous Plots: stop the sacrifice of a maiden/child/princess/barbarian king to awaken/summon an ancient evil/abomination, defeat a cult army that is attacking your village/town/tribe/city, investigate why all magic and spells stopped working in your villiage/town/city/kingdom, restore the rightful rule of a king overthrown by a strange new cult

Patron Missions: purchase 20 white cattle at market and return with them before the Sea God's holy day while rivals try to stop the sacrifice, discredit the priest and followers of a rival/evil cult, convince the high priest to use his power to restore your companion to life

Conjurers use their magic to create, from nothing but their imagination, objects, creatures, or environments. Cantrips and first magnitude spells are usually nothing more than insubstantial illusions, but 2nd and 3rd magnitude spells have substance and mass. The conjurer is the entertainer who juggles a dozen balls of screaming fire, a merchant with the ever-full purse and a harem of beautiful women (or stable of handsome men, or a caterwaul of catamites), or the wizard who lives in a tower of iron (or gold).

Conjurers practice the magical art of Conjuration and Illusion. The conjurer reduces the arcane cost of spells by one if they deal with illusions, creating objects, creating creatures, or creating environments. Damaging spells always employ a medium, such as a fire or a conjured arrow.

The Price: None of this is real
The Conjurer's magics all fade to nothing after his death. The conjured castle, the treasure horde, the dragon he once rode, all fade into nothing. If a conjurer does not touch or interact with a conjured item or creature at least once a year that item or creature will also fade to nothing. A conjuration cannot conjure the "lack" of something, such as conjuring air where a wall is or making something invisible. However, he could conjure a siege weapon to destroy the wall or a pillar to hide behind. A conjurer also cannot conjure something that cannot fit in the area, such a whale in a wardrobe, but he could conjure water into someones lungs to make them drown.

Creatures created with conjuration are illusions, even if given substance, and are usually shallow and simple. They usually only have rank 0 careers or the career ranks of their conjurer. Conjured creatures never have arcane points and cannot cast spells. Indirect effects of a conjured item remain after it vanishes, so a slain foe is still slain and conjured water that was drunk does not suddenly result in thirst.

The Power: I am Legion
The conjurer will always have the right tool, the finest clothes, and the adoring lover with little effort. It's all fake, but for conjurers what is real, anyway? Conjurers can appear as they wish, at what age and health they wish, with a cantrip. A 1st magnitude spell can create a duplicate of the conjurer with his abilities and skill ranks (but no ability to cast spells). A 2nd magnitude spell can conjure a dozen duplicates, and a 3rd magnitude a veritable army.

Common Themes: oasis, palaces, luxury, strange guardian creatures, items of bizarre materials such as swords of solid water, the color purple or gold

Villainous Plots: a conjurer has flooded the village/town/city/tribe with food/goods/coin resulting in everyone going bankrupt and becoming his servants, a rag-tag army of bandits suddenly has fine arms and armor and now threatens your village/town/tribe/city, a magician commands giants of stone and metal and threatens your village/town/tribe/city,

Patron Missions: go fetch me this book/strange creature/lover and return, go explore a tower of ivory and crystal that appeared last week, find an alchemist that can create a potion of youth lest this place and all within it cease to exist including all the rewards I have given you

Enchanters use their magic to manipulate, beguile, and enchant their targets - people, animals, any self-aware creature. They have no special power of the unaware or inanimate - it is useless to enchant a rock to love you, for example. Their magic works on thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories, and dreams. Enchanters are artistic and involved in both the fine and performing arts.

Enchanters practice the magical art of Enchantment and Ensorcellment. Then enchanter reduces the arcane cost of spells by one if they manipulate emotions, thoughts, behaviors, or memories. They also get this for illusions, if those illusions are entirely in the mind of the target - a delusion, as it were.

The Price: I need people
Enchanters need people that way animals need food and water. Their magic relies on belief, and sometimes adoration by crowds. Circe is a classic example - she turned men into pigs instead of killing them, for even the attention of animals was useful. An enchanter cannot cast magic if alone, and needs crowds of people in proportion to the magnitude of the magic. These people can be hostile if cowed or subdued, but most enchanters prefer and desire adoring crowds.

The Power: The mind is the ultimate tool
Enchanters need people, but their power focuses on getting people to be by their side. Their arts inevitably make them attractive and beautiful, youthful, and confident - a side effect perhaps of their own magic subconsciously being used on themselves. Their command of their minds, along with their innate genius (and library of stolen memories) allows them always to have a rank 0 career in every career category. If an enchanter has never sailed before, a quick bit of thinking will give them Sailor at rank 0.

Common themes: islands, theaters, decadence, strangely obedient slaves, fine art, items of glass or crystal, the color red

Villainous Plots: a new merchant's slaves are obedient even though they are from a notorious tribe of warlike savages, locals spent more and more time at a local bordello while neglecting their businesses and families, a foreigner has risen quickly in the royal court and is now the vizier, an idyllic island paradise hides a terrible secret, an aging enchanter looks for a young athletic slave to become his new body after transferring his mind

Patron Missions: fetch me a fine wine/painting/handsome slave, help me restore my family/clan/dynasty to a place of honor/power/rulership

Shamans use their magic to commune with and bargain with the many spirits that exist side-by-side with the real world, invisible to most non-magicians. These supernatural entities are not powerful and distant, like those of a Thaumaturge, but close by and tied to the natural world, especially living things. Shamans are closely tied to the natural world and it empowers their spells and magic.

Shamans practice the magical art of Animism, the communication with and control of spirits. Then shaman reduces the arcane cost of spells by one if they affect natural living creatures, including themselves. Spells such as the giving of animal abilities to other living creatures, transforming into natural creatures, and the growth and decay of living things are within their specialty.

Spirits reside in all material creatures and objects, and the shaman controls them (or awakens them in the case of non-living objects). Animation gives sentience to animals, animation to objects, and can give aspects of different creatures to other creatures. A shaman does not conjure fire, but gives himself the claws and strength of a tiger, or animates a boulder to roll over a foe.

The Price: The Magic of Nature
The Shaman taps into the magic inherent in the living world, and the more unnatural or removed from life the target, the harder it is for him to affect it. Cities with the farms and fields are unnatural, so too are refined metals. Rocks have little if any spirit and must be animated using the shamans own life force, making it costly or impossible for them. In order to work their magic they must remain in tune with the natural world. They wear little clothing, sometimes none at all, and carry only items made from nature and by their own hands. They avoid possessing metal items, save for simple ones of copper and gold. Shamans are rare in barren environments, such as dry deserts, alpine mountains, or rocky wastelands, as their magic is difficult there. If an area is without natural life, shamans lose all ability to cast spells and use magic.

The Power: I am life
The Shaman is a master of life, and of the living world. They are immune to most diseases and poisons. They enjoy a long and healthy life, often with spouses and many children. They are immune to most natural environmental effects and can walk naked through (natural) snowstorms. Unlike most magicians, shamans can heal others. However they cannot return the dead to life. Shamans often retire to secluded places of natural beauty that thrive with life.

Common themes: remote forests, secluded swamps, shallow seas, sentient trees and talking animals, items of wood or ivory, fertility, the color green or brown.

Villainous Plots: the trees near a village have become animated and attacked, as your city harvest wood for war the forest animals keep attacking, a once populated town is empty but full of birds

Patron Missions: find the shaman who can heal your strange wasting disease/curse of lycanthropy, a shaman needs help restoring a barren wasteland to life, a shaman appears in your dreams asks for help freeing him from a prison of iron and death


7/01/2016 10:42 pm  #2

Re: Colleges of Magic

Very cool and very evocative. I like this a lot. I mean. a lot.


7/08/2016 9:14 am  #3

Re: Colleges of Magic

I don't get it myself. Why does BOL need Classes? You can do all of this with the existing rules. If you want to be a Necromancer, just learn "necromantic" spells. Why should you get a point break for NOT learning other spells?

All of the "Price" is just Flaws. Already done, no fuss or muss. 

I mean it's nice flavor text, but it seems a little crunch heavy for something that can already be done in the rules. 


7/08/2016 11:09 am  #4

Re: Colleges of Magic

michaeltaylor wrote:

I don't get it myself. Why does BOL need Classes? You can do all of this with the existing rules. If you want to be a Necromancer, just learn "necromantic" spells. Why should you get a point break for NOT learning other spells?

All of the "Price" is just Flaws. Already done, no fuss or muss. 

I mean it's nice flavor text, but it seems a little crunch heavy for something that can already be done in the rules. 


Last edited by Simon W (7/08/2016 11:11 am)


7/08/2016 11:12 am  #5

Re: Colleges of Magic

Where does my post keep going? I think its cool as a focus for players who struggle with how open the BoL Magic rules are. So it's cool.


8/02/2016 3:34 pm  #6

Re: Colleges of Magic

To: michaeltaylor
They aren't really "classes" a la Pathfinder, etc., but backgrounds to help focus players. Some players are just dull, or very wargamer-y, and want structure. Some are too imaginative and want to have a Tardis in their Millennium Falcon and Conan as their co-pilot. I just give some fluff-n-stuff to focus on the Sword-and-Sorcery style and tropes. Admittedly, my preference is for a more magical style game but to each their own.

An interesting take is to use my fluff-n-stuff, but have magicians that don't fit the framework at all. How about a Riddle Master of Hed style magician? Or a true-name magician out of Earthsea? Or some psionic-clerics like Camber of Culdi? God, I'm dating myself with the book references but you get the idea.

By making Colleges you have colleagues, other magicians that can help you. Kill that weasly necromancer? Well, his buddies are worried now and offence can be the best defense. The Thaumaturges did like it, and perhaps could secretly assist you... not wanting an all-out war and all.

Simon: Thanks for the post! Oh, and the game.


Last edited by Sutek of the Seven Sigils (8/02/2016 3:35 pm)

     Thread Starter

8/04/2016 8:38 am  #7

Re: Colleges of Magic

If they're background, that's great. 

Buf if they give point breaks, then they ARE D&D classes and will influence player choices beyond what their background is. Just exactly like D&D classes do. Because they are NOT 'just background'. 

To each his own, but it just seems to me this is a slippery slope that BOL has avoided...and for good reason...


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