A return to spell research and manipulation

The Making of an Arcane Hero

The world of Nerath is one of incredible power. Arcane energies, the result of the worlds exposure to the Feywild, Shadowfell and Underdark have permeated the land, and those with the skill and knowledge can draw upon this force and shape it, binding it to their will, and crafting it into what is commonly called magic.

But while the arcane energy is everywhere, and those that can control and shape it uncommon, the true nature of the arcane is more complex. To begin with, most adventurers are exposed to only the lesser forms of magic, accessible to anyone with a bit of brain and time they can devote to study. Lesser magics are those wielded by apprentices, shining bolts of magic, simple claps of thunder, vague memory implantation… Of the most common lesser magics are the illusions, spells that are used to delight and deceive.

For those that could, if they tried, trace their ancestry back to the fall of the ancient civilizations, magic is more complex and more powerful. The blood of ancestry runs thick within their body, through their beating hart, around their brain, collecting the air they breathe. These magicians wield more ancient spells, spells which have their origin in the ancient wars. Beyond the grasp of lesser spellcasters, the mages who wield such power have learnt to summon forth beings from forgotten or unspoken realms, cast powerful evocations that attack hordes of enemies, can transmute flesh into stone or into even worse things… To use these spells though, these mages of ancient power must diligently study ancient texts, seeking out arcane grandmasters to teach them the hidden secrets, and search for lost scrolls containing rituals of immense importance.

Beyond the lesser magics and the ancient magics are the forbidden ones. Necromancy that can raise undead legions, nethermancy that can shroud castles in shadow before razing them to the ground, elementalism so powerful that the very shape of the land and sea is altered. These magical schools are forbidden for the drain they place upon the world and the caster. The arcane energy is not infinite, some mages claim that the generations and revisions to spells have weakened the magic of Nerath and brought about their creators downfall, that those who find paths to other sources of information have found the answer. To wield these forbidden arts is an act testament to desecration.

Mastering a spell is not a simple task, and wizards and other wielders of magic are constantly devising new and interesting ways to shape the arcane energy. Some dive headlong into research, finding and reading ancient tomes containing the secrets of unlocking great power. Others experiment, combining expensive and rare materials with spoken words to find the point in which the forces gather and submit to them. Such research is a lengthy and often tedious process, filled with mistakes and misdirections, and potentially fraught with danger. More than one mage has allowed their ambition to overcome their ability, leading to fatal mistakes.

While expensive and time consuming, research is a re-warding goal. Confronted with a problem during their adventuring life, the arcane wielder maybe able to fall back upon the knowledge they garnered during their research to overcome the problem. In addition, their is the element of surprise… Most commoners, militias, and evil hordes have seen or know about a fireball, but when you assault them with Norry’s Sweep of Incandescent Heat, they won’t know what hit them. Your research into new spells and potions can provide you with offensive and defensive capabilities that have never been seen before in a campaign.

A unique spell, the result of their weeks or month of research is a valuable commodity. It can be used as a bargaining chip or a trade item with other wizards. Some wizards horde such spells, scared that unveiling their new found power will make them a target for unscrupulous thieves, while others use them as a form of intimidation, casting them to show off their power and skill.

Researching Spells

Researching and mastering a spell, whether it is a popular incantation found in many tomes and taught in most wizards colleges, or a unique cantrip or hex available only to you requires materials to focus the arcane energy, the words and actions needed to form and shape the energy, and the time to practise and perfect the spell until its usage becomes almost second nature.

For a common spell, most arcane wielders find that the components needed, the materials and words are accessible, they can be bought from mages colleges or borrowed from imperial libraries.

To craft your own spell though is difficult. Even the simplest of spells require extraordinary materials and processes. In most cases, the wizard doing the research finds that the spell they want to form isn’t worth the effort, and adding their own twist to an existing spell is more cost and time effective. For those that persevere, they find that the more powerful the effect desired, the more unusual and costly the materials needed. The materials can be both physical, a pinch of pixie dust, the scale of a giant snake, or metaphorical, the courage of a knight, the breath of a butterfly. Such intangible items are as much of a quest to find as the most difficult delve into a goblins cave.

Once the wizard has amassed the exotic materials needed to reflect the desired effect, they begin the actions needed to form the verbal and somatic aspects of the spell. Materials are ground and brewed, while the wizard focuses on a repetitive chant, beginning the process that alters and aids the focus of arcane energy. Days can pass as the chant becomes a trance, the words becoming incoherent. It is in this state, their frail bodies close to exhaustion and death, that most mages gather the threads of arcane energy that they have focused and pooled with the materials they have used. Carefully, they separate the threads, giving each one a secret name to be formed as part of their spell. A bolt of arcane energy may require a straight thread of arcane energy, and be known as ‘directus’, while to add a radiant effect to such an arcane bolt may require a short thread of glowing arcane energy, twisted and woven into the original thread with the word ‘lumos’.

Once the threads of arcane energy have been woven together, the mage awakens, their incantation the sole memory of the experience that is retained. Days of repetitious casting begins, as they seek to perfect the spell and transfer the process and result into their spellbooks, using inks imbued with residium.


Spell Research
Pre-req: Any arcane class, primary statistic 15+
While you lack the dedication to shape the arcane into your own bidding, you’re research has given you the skills to alter the fabric of your spells to make them more unique.
Benefit: You gain the Arcane Manipulation power.
Special: You can take this feat multiple times, gaining an additional use of Arcane Manipulation per day.

Arcane Manipulation
“Anyone can cast a fireball, but can you cast a Norry’s Sweep of Incandescent Heat?”
Daily * Arcane
Free Action * Personal
Trigger:  You use an power with the Arcane keyword
Effect: Choose one of the following benefits. The chosen benefit changes the relevant line of the triggering power for the current use of the power.
   Range  – Double the range (10′ becomes 20′
   Target – Add or omit 1 target (so 1 target in range becomes 1 or 2 targets, omit 1 ally from al creatures in burst)
   Hit    – gain a +2 bonus to hit target defense
   Damage – Increase the damage dice by one step
   Damage – Add a keyword to the damage type (acid, cold, force, fire, lightning, necrotic, psychic, poison, radiant, thunder)
Special: You can only use Arcane Manipulation once per round.

Spell Craft
Pre-req: Any arcane class, primary statistic 17+, Spell Research feat, paragon tier
Your dedication to the arcane arts has cost you financially, but the time and money you have invested mean that you have gained a mastery over the arcane arts and can cast unique spells with ease.
Benefit: You gain a number of daily uses of your Arcane Manipulation power equal to 1 + half your level. In addition, the Arcane Manipulation power loses the once per round limit.

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  1. Richard Green

    Avada Kedavra! I was just thinking that anyone who wanted to contribute to Classics Return but didn’t have much time could convert one or two obscure but classic AD&D spells…… Could be the type of thing that is uncovered with some magical research.



  1. A late start to the “Classics Return” Blog Carnival » Daily Encounter

    […] My last preview article was based around the spell research material from the changes to 2e wrought by the Skills & Powers and Spells & Magic books. I’m quite pleased with the fluff in this article, but the crunch doesn’t really fit with it – http://dailyencounter.net/2012/08/15/a-return-to-spell-research-and-manipulation/ […]

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