Sunday, January 27, 2013

Halfway Human (Part 1 - Prologue)

As narrated by Raff Goldenstrings
May 8th, 695CC
Thirteen years prior to the events in The Acolyte's Map

The fox has instructed me that I'm t'tell this truthfully and completely, leaving out nothing this time. I feel silly speaking t'naught but the air- and my pet mouse and the bossy fox, I suppose- but Felix says that I needs must speak what's true t'atone for the false I told the healer earlier. I don't understand this. I've been taught t'bend the truth when I needta and I didn't speak false so much as leave bits out. Why are the words I use around Saef so important that I must be chastened so by his- our- animal guide? Maybe I shouldn't of- shouldn't have- even bothered telling Saef anything, but I'm not sure he was convinced I'm what I say I am. Okay, and I was also kind of hoping my story would get a smile out of him. He never smiles and I'm not entirely convinced that he knows how t'laugh. I wish I knew why he's always so grumpy and prickly. I mean, he wasn't the one captured...

But that's nothing t'do with what I've been instructed t'say. I must do as I'm bid, especially when it comes from a fox, and hope I finish before Saef returns; he already thinks me crazy for talking t'animals. I can only imagine what he'd do if he found me talking t'the sky! Most of what I said t'him was true. I am a priest of Hermes; two months ago I was ordained and given the title ″Prior″. (Maybe a bit longer than two months, now as I think on it; I was in the dark place so long, I don't rightly know today's date.) I know I don't seem old enough t'be more than an acolyte, but I truly am older'n I look. I'm twenty-two, 'though if I'm t'be honest, were I human it would perhaps be more like seventeen. The other Messengers were never really sure what age t'treat me, so it was assumed I was of age with the young acolytes I trained with.

'Tis somewhat strange for me t'be a Messenger, with my pointed ears and all, but we all do come from different walks of life. Farm boys, children of merchants and traders, young people who grew up knowing the woods as I did, even nobles; my mate's a nob, as is a lass who trained with us. Any can be picked for this order, so long as they have something that makes them fit. Generally that trait is mischief, but our skills and hobbies vary as much as our backgrounds do. All this is the truth, as is what I told Saef about my life 'fore entering the priesthood.

I was raised by my mother and grew up around her kin; they're trackers, rangers, and various woodsy sorts. My da would visit us, but he was never so good at spending time in the wilderness and my mum always says she isn't comfortable in cities. (I still don't know how that relationship ever worked... but now that I'm older and have a love, I guess I can personally attest that sometimes opposites do attract!) My father was always amused that I joined up with a human priesthood despite my upbringing which should have left me more elf than human. He never got t'see me ordained though; he passed a few years back. My mum's always refused t'tell me exactly what happened and she'd become distraught whenever I asked, so I stopped. Maybe someday she'll tell me, but I haven't the heart t'upset her. This, too, is all truth.

Where it got a bit hazy was when I started goin' deeper with my tale of how I came t'be a Messenger. At the fox's request, I'll try t'speak clearer and tone down my accent so I'm more understandable. Felix, ye know no one's listening, aye? ... You know no one is listening, correct? Better? You are worse than the priest who instructed us in languages, ye know- I'm amazed that dealing with me didn't make him hand in his robes and run off t'be a hermit, far away from stubborn and thickheaded elves.

((This narration takes place during "In the Cards" [my current novel that's also currently a messy rough draft], shortly after he meets Seph [whose name he can't pronounce yet], and is introducing a short story about Raff's past. I'll be posting the next part soon!))

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Art to keep my plethora of spells organized

There are some perks that come with being married to your group's Dungeon Master. In this case, well-timed puppy eyes while in the gaming store resulted in the 2nd edition "Deck of Priest Spells" being added to said DM's D&D collection. (How could he turn down his favorite cleric, hmm?)

These have all the D&D priest spells, plus cards for writing your own (I need those since that's exactly what I've been doing) and a few other handy cheat-sheet cards. I had been keeping track of my spells using a small notebook, but it was rather disorganized and I only write spells in as notes, not full descriptions. That meant the DM had to constantly flip through the handbooks to figure out what exactly would happen when I'd want to cast a spell- and this tended to waste time. Since I play a priest with little in the way of combat abilities and no magical healing ability, the trade off is lots and lots of spells. (I just counted how many Cyneric can use and ended up just shy of 125... sheesh, why does he always use the same dozen or so?)

Anyway, now all that time spent flipping through pages to find a specific spell is a thing of the past! I'm looking forward to the next game where I can pick the spell I want from the index of my spellbook (yup, I made a color-coded index), shuffle through my alphabetically arranged deck of cards, then pass the one I want to use over to the DM without any interruption to the game. Yay, organization!

The only downside? I didn't want to carry that entire box of cards and instead only tote around the cards I could use. This meant it was time to sew a pouch to keep them in, of course! I wanted to make this special, though, so it would look like something Cyneric would carry. I found some fabric in my craft supply stash in nearly the color of his robes and embroidered feathers onto it before turning it into a bag. (I picked feathers because they're part of his holy symbol.)

Here's the finished product:


Sunday, January 6, 2013

New D&D Chaos and Charm Spells

My husband (the wonderful and talented Dungeon Master) and I finally had a chance to finish some priest spells that I (and a few helpful friends) had been working on for ... geez, a few years at this point. My priest follows Hermes, that world's god of Messages and Mischief, so I've always been kind of irked that very few of the spells in the 2nd edition Player's Handbook actually fit his priesthood- he doesn't heal or fight or do anything particularly "useful"; instead he tends to function as a delivery boy with a side of druid and a bit of bard/rogue thrown in for good measure. A few of the animal spells work for the "Message" side (since animals can carry messages or give information), and the priests of Hermes do specialize in Charm magic (mind control? You betcha!), but otherwise there really wasn't much that fit the "Mischief" side of his duties. Not all priesthoods are boring, despite what you might think from reading through the yawn-inducing selection of priest spells.

So I decided to get creative. My goal was to create an entirely new sphere (a sphere is a branch of spells that all fit a theme) and call it Mischief, but one of the DMs on my DM's forum pointed out that in one of the extra D&D books there's a sphere called Chaos. Now THAT is what I'd been looking for! (This book also contained a sphere called Thought; this fills in the gaps for the "Message" side of my priest's order by giving him Telepathy and communication magic.) Now the new spells that I had been creating had a category!

So far we've come up with four new ones; three of which fit into the Chaos sphere and one that's a new, more general Charm spell.

Transmuting Tincture - Level 1
-Sphere: Chaos
-Range: 0
-Components: Material, Somatic
-Duration: 6 hours
-Casting Time: 1 round
-Area of Effect: caster
-Saving Throw: None

This spell enables the priest to change his or her appearance slightly, altering hair color, eye color, skin tone, or any combination of the three for the duration of the spell. Nothing else is changed other than coloration and it cannot be dispelled; it must wear off on its own.

When this spell is in effect, it stacks with a Disguise proficiency (required of this priesthood), improving that by 3. Since this spell cannot voluntarily be removed, if the priest should need to look like himself in that time frame, a Disguise check would have to be made. There is no saving throw for the spell itself, but if used with a disguise, then a roll must be made.

The somatic and material components of this spell are combined; the priest must draw a fake mustache on his finger in charcoal and bring it to his lip. Once the spell goes into effect, the charcoal drawing is erased.


Snakes in the Backpack - Level 1
Sphere: Animal, Chaos, Summoning
Range: 30 yards
Components: Verbal, Material, Somatic
Duration: Special
Casting time: 1 round
Area of effect: 1 closeable object
Saving throw: None

The version of the spell depends on the words spoken by the priest at the time the spell is cast and the material used. The number of snakes and kind depend on level and/or alignment. The target for the spell is any type of closeable container (backpack, chest, basket with lid, etc).

If fake snakes are selected, for every 2 levels of the priest, 1d4 springy fake snakes leap out of the pouch, backpack or closeable container; these vanish after 1 round. If the priest chooses real snakes, this summons the same number of snakes of a chosen variety. These also pop out of the bag and have a chance of attacking the target (depending on the species of the snake summoned) before slithering away.

Summoning venomous snakes should be carefully considered by good-aligned priests. The snakes, live or fake, remain inert and immobile until the container is actually opened, at which point the real snakes spring to life.

For the real snakes option, the material component is a piece of snakeskin (of the type of snake being summoned) coiled up while casting the spell. For the fake snakes, a coiled spring is the material needed. These are expended when the spell is cast.


Bogey Bombardier - Level 2
-Sphere: Plant, Chaos
-Range: 40ft
-Components: Material, Somatic
-Duration: 3d4 rounds
-Casting Time: 4
-Area of Effect: 1 creature/level
-Saving Throw: Negate

When this spell goes off, the priest is able to effect a number of creatures equal to his level. Creatures affected are entitled to a saving throw vs Spell; if they fail, they are coated in a sticky ooze that lasts for 3d4 rounds. This ooze slows them down, adding 5 to their initiative in battle. This also causes the creatures to become adhesive and any item in their hands at the time of the spell cannot be dropped for the duration. Once the spell expires, the ooze vanishes. (The ooze is like tree sap in composition.)

The material component for this spell is a red rubber nose that the priest puts on and honks once. This is not expended by use.


Aura Mask - Level 3
-Sphere: Charm
-Range: touch
-Components: M, V, S
-Duration: 1 day/level
-Casting Time: 1 round
-Area of Effect: 1 cubic foot/level
-saving throw: Neg.

Unlike a somewhat similar wizard version of this spell, this one doesn't change the aura of an object, but instead influences the mind of the person focusing on the item. When a detection spell is cast, the Charm spell on the object causes the spellcaster testing it to believe the object is unmagical. Any person attempting to use magical means to determine if the object is magical must save vs Spell; success negates the spell's effect on that individual and they see the object as being the magical thing that it is.

The material component is a piece of wool passed over the object; this is expended when the spell is cast.


I'll be working on more spells in the future; it's a lot of fun having ones that are actually relevant to this priesthood!


Friday, January 4, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green (Short Story- Part 1 of ?)

((In our D&D game there's a three month gap where the characters are all off doing different things on their own before meeting up again to adventure. In Cyn's case, one of the things he's been doing is spell research. Here's the first part of a short story that I may finish someday; this takes place in the "now" of my writing world, shortly after The Acolyte's Map and very, very long after In the Cards [that mess of a story that I'll finish some day!]))

August 17th, 708CC

Cyneric sat in a soft, overstuffed old chair in the common room of the Messenger's Mosque in Woodland city, his attention fixed on the worn leather-bound book that rested on his knees. Despite the summer's heat that was scarcely allayed by the open window at his back, he had the hood of his carnelian-colored robe pulled tightly over his head. Whenever he turned a page, he would hastily rehide his hands in the loose sleeves, as though caught by a chill- or else trying to keep them out of sight.

He was so engrossed in trying to decipher the faded words of a long-ago scribe that he failed to notice when someone approached. It wasn't until the voice had said his name for a third time that he jumped, nearly knocking the book off his lap. He managed to catch this just before it hit the floor, but his page had been lost; he muttered a quiet curse under his breath. The book safe, he raised his head, moving slowly to keep his face hidden in the shadow of his hood. He had gotten quite tired of the curious stares his colleagues had given him all afternoon and had decided that feeling nearly suffocated by the heavy fabric was a better option.

When he saw the dark haired woman standing before him, a look of amusement on her face, he realized how immersed in his reading and thoughts he had been; he should have been able to recognize that voice! He rose and placed his book carefully on the seat cushion before catching the woman in a brief embrace.

″About time you noticed me, Cyn,″ she said as she hugged him back, ″I was afraid I'd have to send a herd of cattle into the room to get your attention.″ Her brown eyes showed the mischievous gleam that he knew so well. It had been a few months since their paths had last crossed, but she had been one of his closest friends for a very long time.

As he took her hand to pull her over to the row of chairs, he replied, ″I rather doubt that you could fit them through the door or squeeze them past the mail room. I cannot see that Armand would appreciate you damaging his mosque. That's what the acolytes are for.″

The woman laughed and agreed as she took the chair to his right. Liz was a few years older than he and, as another Messenger of the same rank, she was garbed in a red robe identical to his own- other than her hood worn down showing her dark brown hair in its usual long braid.

″When did you return?″ Cyneric asked, wondering if she had actually been here for days and he had been too preoccupied to notice. He supposed it would not be the first time for that; he tended to have a one track mind when it came to research or studying.

″Last night. I would have interrupted you sooner, but you were holed up behind a locked door and I was warned that going in there was probably a bad idea.″ She raised a questioning eyebrow and added, ″I was going to ignore that warning, of course, but then I remembered some of the projects you'd mentioned that you wanted to work on. Instead of knocking, I contemplated fleeing the city. Should I have run?″

″Of course not. You would have been perfectly safe in the work room. Well, probably. Most likely, anyway.″ Cyneric admitted, fidgeting with the inside cuff of his sleeves. ″Safe″ would have been correct, but quite possibly she would have left the room different than she had entered it. Not harmed in any way, but decidedly different.

Liz covered her eyes with her hand as though her friend was giving her a headache and let out a theatrical sigh. ″Cyn, what did you do now? Does this by any chance have to do with the fact that you're hiding?″

″Possibly. I could just be- hey!″ What he had been about to lie about was interrupted when she reached over to pull his hood back. She gaped for a moment, much as the few other clerics of Hermes had done earlier that day, then broke into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.

Cyneric glared through eyes that were currently an odd shade of bright green, then reached with hands that had a definite yellow tinge to pull his hood back over his long hair. Hair that had once been midnight black but which now matched the lime shade of his eyes. The glare he shot was mostly just for show, however; as a priest of a mischief god, he and his friends had gotten into worse predicaments than this, although rarely ones that were so colorful. In a haughty tone of voice, he remarked, ″Green hair is all the rage in Rinos, I'll have you know. Not wanting to clash, I decided the rest of me should match.″

Gasping for breath and wiping tears from her eyes, Liz commented, ″Then remind me not to take any assignments for the capital city. I look terrible in green.″

Unable to keep a straight face any longer, Cyneric, too, fell into a fit of laughter. Perhaps if this was a permanent problem it would be cause for a serious reaction, but he knew- or at least hoped!- that it would wear off by the end of the day. When the two of them finally got themselves under control, Liz posed the question, ″What the heck were you actually trying to do? You look like you angered a colorblind wizard. It's very festive color on you, by the way, with your robe and all.″

″At least I got 'festive' out of this, so that's something.″ He shrugged sheepishly as he explained, ″I was trying for a spell that would aid disguises and undercover assignments.″

His friend stared at him, disbelief evident on her face. ″As what? A dryad? A holly bush? Are you sure you're not colorblind? What color's that wall over there?″

″White. They are all white, which wouldn't prove your theory,″ Cyneric pointed out. ″I would have thought it was obvious; the spell I was using backfired.″

Now a raised eyebrow was added to Liz's disbelieving expression. Cyneric had a feeling that he knew what she was thinking; he had wondered the same thing when he had caught sight of himself in a mirror. Sure enough, her next comment echoed what he had thought earlier that day. ″I thought divine spells fizzled out of existence when they didn't work. Since when do they backfire?″

″Since now, apparently.″ He tugged his sleeves back over his hands, which had come free again, then gave another shrug. He would certainly be glad when- and hopefully not if- this wore off! ″My hypothesis is that I'm experiencing spell backfire because I am not attempting to learn existing spells, which is what normally results in spells 'fizzling'. I'm trying to create them largely from scratch and the results have been somewhat... well, unexpected.″

″Or maybe Hermes just has a sense of humor,″ Liz pointed out. That was something that hadn't occurred to Cyneric, but it did seem likely, now that she mentioned it... ″And you said 'spells' with an 's'. What other mess have you been working on?"

Cyneric gave her his best vulpine grin, just visible under the hood of his robe, and asked, ″Would you like to be the first to learn magic worthy of our order? I guarantee it will be worth a slightly green hue.″

Without hesitation, just as he thought she might react, she mirrored his smile. ″Count me in.″

Already plotting about how the research might be faster and more accurate with two mischievous priests working on it, he gave Liz her first task. ″Great! Please dig me up some guinea pigs- I mean volunteers- and meet me back here in three hours.″

The woman gave a mock-salute and bounded off.