Hexagram Path of Sorcery Draft

Image from Wikipedia
The spells trait is the support for Vancian magic. Note that the total number of spell slots is much limited compared to the traditional game, but spells are also retained with a successful save, making spells closer to at-will as the sorcerer gains levels. However, 1s cause spell fumbles (this also explains why cities aren’t lit with continual light spells).
Existing spell lists may be used if desired (for familiarity and quick start), but guidelines for creating unique spells will be built into the process of scenario creation, which happens as the game unfolds, and does not need to be determined beforehand (this also makes the spell list potentially unique to every campaign). As for all traits, max T is 6. The word “rank” is used to measure spells, but that is just so I’m not using the word level to refer to two different things in the same paragraph.

A number of these traits build on ideas I have had before, such as Vancian magic variants and counter-spells.
Banishment is the implementation of turn undead. Thus, characters like clerics and paladins are prototypes that mix the path of steel and the path of sorcery, which is as it should be.
The magical devices and magic research traits still need work. Magic item manufacture is probably part of that, and is related to the setting guidelines for magic items, which are not yet finished.

Magical affinity was developed for an earlier version of Hexagram, and will likely also be featured in some form.

The Path of Sorcery

  1. Spells. T spell slots for prepared spells.
  2. Aegis. +T floating bonus to magic saves and counter-spells.
  3. Magical devices. Use or create enchanted items.
  4. Scrolls. The creation and use of inscribed spells.
  5. Alchemy. Prepare magical concoctions usable by anyone.
  6. Magical research. Create new spells.
  7. Banishment. Turn away undead or force demons back to their home.
  8. Thrall-binding. Summon or create sorcerous minions.
  9. Supplication. Call on favors from demons, spirits, and other powers.

Image from Wikipedia

Spells. T is the number of spells slots which can be used for prepared spells. 1 spell rank requires one slot. The maximum spell rank (called spell capability) which may be prepared is character level divided by 2, rounded up. So, for example, a third level character with spells 3 could prepare one second rank spell and one first rank spell. That same character could not prepare a third rank spell, however, as that would require spell capability 3 (and thus character level 5 or higher). When a spell is cast, the character makes a saving throw versus magic. If the saving throw succeeds, the spell works and is also retained for later use. If the saving throw is a 1, the spell fails and a magical mishap occurs (see magical mishaps section). If the saving throw fails but isnot a 1, the spell works but is wiped from the sorcerers consciousness and may not be cast again until it is re-prepared. Similar spells vary based on their source and have incidental effects in addition to primary effects (such as a blast of cold air or a crackling of static electricity). These effects act as a kind of signature. When learning a spell from an specific external source, the incidental effect is also preserved. For example, if a character learns the spell Flashy Blockade, discovered by Manikelme, players should write Manikelme’s Flashy Blockade on their character sheet along with the incidental effect (which in this case might be a cloudy roiling of smoke around the sorcerer’s feet). There may be other Flashy Blockades with different incidental effects. More importantly however, sorcerers who have learned a particular version of a spell gain advantages in resisting the spell (+2 saves, -1 damage per die, +2 at counter-spell attempts). Thus, sorcerers are hesitant to share their knowledge, because it makes them more vulnerable to potential enemies. Though the number of prepared spells is limited by mortal consciousness, sorcerers may prepare further spells for use by encoding them on properly prepared material receptacles (see the scrolls trait). New spells may be located during play in books or on scrolls, fetched by demons (see the supplication trait), or invented (in which case the spell will bear the character’s name and have a unique incidental effect; see the magical research trait).

Aegis. Magical attacks can’t be dodged like blades, but they can be resisted or countered with practice. +T floating bonus to saving throws versus hostile external magical effects. This bonus may be applied to companions nearby in lieu of the self. Multiple sources of magical aegis do not stack. In addition, aegis allows sorcerers to attempt counter-spells, which may be used once per turn in response to enemy spell casters. The character makes a save versus spells (modified by the difference in spell capability between the two casters). Unused aegis points may also be used to help with this save. Upon success, the spell is temporarily countered (that is, the effect is cancelled, but the spell is retained by the enemy spell caster). If the countering sorcerer is willing to expend prepared spells, the spell may be permanently countered (that is, the enemy may not use it again without re-preparation); an equal number of spell slots worth of prepared spells must be expended for a permanent counter. On a natural 20, the spell may be torn from the enemy’s consciousness and hurled back at its caster. On a natural 1, a magical mishap occurs in addition to any other negative effects from the original spell.

Flying Carpet from Dark Classics

Magical devices. Many magical devices require esoteric knowledge to operate. Save versus magic +T to activate or understand a device. Some items may cause disastrous effects upon save fail or fumble, or may curse users without training who attempt to use them. Sometimes, a check is only needed once, after which a device may be used any number of times, and sometimes a check is needed for every use (this depends on the item in question). Some items require a certain level of arcane master to even attempt to make sense of, and these devices will specify a minimum magical devices score. Magical devices does not only apply to portable things like wands, but also potentially to large immovable things.

Faust image from Dark Classics

Scrolls. Spells may be partially cast and then bound to a material receptacle, needing only a final command to activate. This is much like preparing a spell, but requires valuable components to be expended in the process of preparation. Costs are 100 GP and one day per spell level. Note that the form of “scrolls” need not be paper (though that is common); scrolls may be made of any material. Choose a description for scrolls that you create taking this trait. Add the read magic first level spell to your spell book when you first take this trait. If you do not have the spells trait, you may still cast read magic between sessions with proper ritual preparation (one day required per scroll).

Alchemy allows sorcerers to prepare potions, which are like scrolls, but limited to personal effects. Any such spell known (of level T or less) may be brewed as a potion. Additionally, specific potion-only formulae may be discovered in play. Potions can be imbibed by any character for effect. Potions are not as reliable as scrolls, however, and have a chance of expiring before use. A potion brewed just prior to an adventure will not have a chance of failure, but any other potion will have no effect on a d20 roll of 1. Costs are 100 GP and one day per spell level. Potions usually consist of approximately 8 oz of liquid, and must be fully consumed for effect. Any effect takes 1 turn (10 minutes) to manifest and is thus most useful while exploring (as potions are too slow to take effect if consumed during combat).

Magical research. Create spells up to rank T. [Still working on this one, but I’m pretty sure it will be a trait separate from spells.]

Banishment. Turn away undead or demonic creatures. Max HD creature affected = T + 2. Total HD affected = Td6. May only be attempted once per target. If the max HD affected is 5 greater than the actual target, the creature is destroyed or banished.

Thrall-binding. Many sorcerers rely on minions to do their bidding, called thralls. This trait controls the number of such creatures that can be controlled at one time. Choose a thrall type. Possibilities include necromancy, golem-crafting, minor diabolism, or something of your own devising. The type may give minor benefits and weaknesses (example: undead are immune to mind effects but vulnerable to holy water and turning). Max total hit dice = T, divided as desired. For example, if T = 6, three 2 HD thralls may be controlled. AC for all thralls is +T (e.g., six 1 HD thralls will all have +6 AC). Attack bonus is also +T, but must be distributed between thralls (e.g., six 1 HD thralls might each have +1 to attack). Additional special abilities (such as flying) count as one HD (so a 5 HD poisonous minion would count as a 6 HD minion). Creation or ritual costs (in GP) are 1 HD: 100, 2 HD: 200, 3 HD: 400, 4 HD: 800, 5 HD: 1600, 6 HD: 3200. Sorcerers must find formulae diegetically (or perform magical research) to learn how to summon/create and bind a given type of thrall. Any number of thralls may be created or summoned (as long as the costs are paid), but thralls in excess of T will be free-willed, and almost certainly hostile and malevolent. Sorcerers must spend an action to give their thralls commands during combat, but thralls will continue any actions to the best of their ability without direct guidance. Sorcerers may take control of monsters that fit their thrall type with a successful saving throw versus magic. Note that perhaps more than any other type of sorcery, thrall-binding is considered chaotic and must be concealed when in civilized areas. (Thanks to Paul from Dungeonskull Mountain for the term thrall-binding.)

Vision de Saint Jean a Patmos from Dark Classics

Supplication. Some sorcerers bargain directly with powerful entities from other dimensions. These may be demons, genies, saints, ghosts of past heroes, or beings totally beyond human comprehension. The kind of entity dealt with should be declared when the trait is taken (and may affect the type of information the entities have access to). Supplication requires performing complex rituals, of which there are several kinds. The cost to perform one lesser ritual is generally T x 100 GP (and T days worth of preparation and performance). Treasure rituals result in the equivalent of a treasure map of level T (see treasure section). Divination rituals may be used to pose questions, the complexity of which is dependent upon the ritual level (and must be adjudicated by the referee; the 2d6 reaction roll is recommended). Spell rituals can be used to acquire a spell of level T. Lesser rituals may be attempted at half cost, but then require a save versus magic for protection from the (usually hostile) entity, as well as a reaction roll for the degree of service ultimately rendered (the charisma modifier applies). Entities dealt with using supplication rituals may be summoned fully for direct intervention in the sunlit realms, but such is extremely dangerous, and is usually the last resort of the hopeless or insane. Thus, supplication is more commonly used for divination purposes. Such greater rituals require T x 1000 GP and T weeks of preparation and performance. When the entity arrives a saving throw versus magic is required for protection for the sorcerer (companions are not protected, and other means must be used if such protection is desired). Services rendered may be determined by a 2d6 reaction roll, and additional means to garner favor (such as sacrifices) may be attempted, but nothing is guaranteed when dealing with greater rituals. Such entities, when summoned, may choose to stay or return as they see fit (many demons would like nothing better than to trick mortals into opening such doors). Characters that begin with the supplication trait may start with T x 100 GP worth of ritual components (which may not be redeemed directly for money).

10 thoughts on “Hexagram Path of Sorcery Draft

  1. Doc

    I’ve never liked the gold piece cost of spell components. I think devising a magic system that requires a certain amount of money to be spent doesn’t take into account basic facts about economy, such as supply and demand.
    I’ve written about this before – http://roleplayers.livejournal.com/1582705.html – and I can see you’re using a more generalized amount of gp as opposed to such-and-such item worth an amount of gp, but I still think it’s flawed.
    This is just my personal taste as a GM though. I’m much more fond of PCs who have to actively sacrifice things, whether it’s ability score points or personal belongings, then having a system where wealth equals power.

    1. Brendan

      Right now there are no components for standard Vancian prepared spells, but you can’t cast very many of them. So there is a GP cost for creating scrolls and potions and things like that, and potentially accumulating more spells using things like supplication. For a game that rewards accumulating treasure with XP, I think it makes sense to have things like scrolls to spend it on, as that also gives a nice resource limitation on accumulated powers.

      I think this actually might be in line with your approach, as it is similar to sacrificing personal belongings for power. Let me check out your linked post and maybe I’ll have more to say after that.

    2. Brendan

      Okay I got a chance to read your link. I agree with you to some degree, but also believe (along with several of the comments there) that what you are critiquing is really a setting problem and not a rules problem per se. Exactly how much setting is implied in D&D rules is a separate and interesting question, but really this is always going to come down to how a referee implements a specific world (and the kind of world that players are interested in playing in, which is a social contract problem).

      Regarding the pearl example: why assume that pearls are so readily available in shops? That was a referee decision, not dictated by the rules. The whole idea of being able to buy anything in shops reliably in a setting without a strong market economy is as assumption. If it were me, and I was using those rules (which are AD&D, I believe) I would make pearls the reward for another adventure, not something that could be bought (except maybe very rarely, or if you visit the tropical islands where villagers dive into the realms of the shark people to recover them). Every time you allow PCs to just buy something that they want, you are giving up a potentially interesting adventure hook, and such adventure hooks tend to be some of the best because they lead to player-directed quests!

      Personally, I don’t much care for AD&D as a comprehensive system to be honest though, so I’ve never needed to deal very much with the strange game economy which Gygax posited there. (Many of the AD&D books are great for inspiration if you don’t try to use everything together.) Magic item identification itself can have a lot of ramifications for the game. I have another post about it here:


      I like allowing read magic or read languages to be used to decode how some magic items work. This means the game trade-off is: do I memorize one of those utility spells so that I can identify a magic item during a delve and use it right away, or do I memorize something else and need to wait until I return to civilization? Also, not all magic items may be portable…

      Similar points can be made regarding the commonality and reliability of magic. Like you, I prefer my settings to be lower on magic and with rare magic-users. Further, I quite dislike the idea of magic being used as a replacement for technology. This is easy to avoid in setting design however, even if you don’t implement it in direct spell casting mechanics. Just drop hints about how magic causes eddies of chaos, and how the rule of three makes magic dangerous. If you like more direct rules that show how this works, ideas like the spell fumble suggestion above can work also.

      Magicians only become technicians if you allow them to be.

  2. Rusty

    Hi Brendan, does your example character with 3 ranks in their sorcery trait only have 3 slots for magic? does this mean he can only cast a level 1 and a level 2 spell? seems more restrictive than even OD&D… Or are scrolls supposed to provide greater flexibility!
    if the max rank is 6, does his mean a sorcerer with a 6th level spell in mind can’t cast anything else?


    1. Brendan

      Yes, that’s right. This is the most extreme of several approaches I am considering, so I thought it made sense to try it first, especially since it seems to make the most sense both thematically (rarely do wizards in mythology or older fantasy literature have such quantities of power as is suggested by the huge number or spells that can be prepared by high level traditional magic-users) and game-wise (as the choice of prepared spells for an excursion will remain important at high levels).

      Sorcerers can also attain considerable flexibility by using other traits (like scroll creation) and items of power (which is what makes most characters “wizards” in tales; for example, the ring of Thoth Amon).

      Also, the “save to retain” mechanic means that a sorcerer will probably be able to cast the prepared spells more than once (especially at medium to high levels).

  3. Gusty L.

    What’s an example of a 6HD thrall? I assume that 6HD is a pretty big baddy in Hexagram – is that something like a reanimated dragon corpse, a big demonic bruiser, or an angel?

    I also thing thrall binding should work for good wizards to – only they claim the creatures are their as friends and rewards from higher powers (how much of that is a lie – less certain on…) Needless to say I like the way that your minion system works!

    1. Brendan

      The lack of support for elegant minion systems for low level characters has always bothered me, especially since one of my favorite classes is the necromancer. Traditional magic-users can’t cast animate dead until 9th level! (Barring special circumstances, like finding a scroll.)

      Yeah, I totally can see examples that would work for “white” wizards. Have you read The Wheel of Time? Something like a human warder could also be, in technical terms, a thrall.

      And 6 HD is supposed to be pretty tough, especially for something that really will walk into a trap if you tell it to (the GP cost of creation should work against that kind of strategy though, I would think).

  4. David Bapst

    I don’t really have anything to say other than I really like your taste in iconic art for this one, almost as much as your choices for the non-human races post a week ago.


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