This post (8,730 words) is an entry into the Spheres of Power World-Building Semi-Contest, as posted on Facebook. According to a post by Adam Myers on the Spheres of Power Kickstarter page, the deadline is June 13th. If you want to submit your sample world, check out the original Facebook post here.
A sample world for Spheres of Power (Pathfinder)
by Wm Jay Carter III, 6/11/15
In the beginning, the animals of Athanasia knew of neither humans nor spellcasting. Then, the Strangers—semi-divine beings from another world—came and taught the animals how to harness mana and bend it to their will. Since that time magic has criss-crossed the land in rivers called ley-lines, fueling magic for both good and ill.
Thus empowered, the animals all began changing their shapes to look more like the Strangers, each to varying degrees of success. Those who achieved the transformation perfectly became known as humans, a race favored by the Strangers. Since the Cataclysm, however, the knowledge of how to change one’s shape has begun to fade, and the animal races remain in their hybrid states.
Magic is still available, however, waiting for those who discover their connection to it. Some seek out writings of Strange Wisdom and words of power; these are known as mages. Others find that magic literally flows from their souls like the ley-lines; these call themselves wunderkinder. Shamans commune with the world of spirits, especially those of their ancestors who learned wisdom from the Strangers. The dendrites believe they are the Strangers’ literal children, and are reborn century after century to ensure that Athanasia’s fate is guided by the Strangers’ will. Finally, exemplars make oaths to powerful beings in exchange for their magic, whether they devote themselves to a Stranger of Light or Darkness, or to the World Soul—the very spirit of Athanasia—thus harnessing its primal elements.
Athanasia itself is a young world, full of new beginnings. The first kingdom, Euzoria, was formed only a few hundred years ago. Euzoria is the home of humans, with the rest of Athanasia’s animal races living in their own communities. Thanks to the wisdom of the Strangers the denizens of Athanasia have enjoyed relative peace. But that peace is not without growing pains.
The córeans roost at Bristlebane, at the height of Mount Córea. Meanwhile their rivals, the seraphim, occupy the Pirium Spire, floating over the Eye of the World. The leonians roam the Ranai Forest, the sirens swim the Siren’s Sea, and the bóreans remain secluded in their tunnels near the outskirts of the Eye of the World. Many other animal races dot the planet, such as the merrows, draconians, ranai, and fenrir.
While none of the animal races share the organized government peculiar to humans, they are no less loyal to their own kind. Members of the animal races follow communally-respected leaders for as long as they remain relevant, and then govern their own local tribes internally when there is no immediate need for regional coordination. This has resulted in most of the animal races remaining localized to their own homelands, while the humans explore and expand year after year, spreading across most of the known world.
Thought to have been the result of a Stranger’s single word of condemnation, Athanasia was cracked like an egg roughly 400 years ago, creating a chasm from the Siren’s Sea to the North Axis, forming an ever-descending river into the Great Chasm’s depths. The North Axis itself was scooped away from the rest of the planet and flung into orbit where it now serves as Athanasia’s only moon. The resulting crater is now known as the Eye of the World.
The Cataclysm resulted in more than just devastation, however. The Eye of the World itself contains hundreds of miles of exposed pirium ore, a relatively rare substance in Athanasia. Known to turn black in the presence of daylight and shine with a silvery golden glow in the darkness, pirium is closely guarded by the seraphim, who only permit the bóreans to mine it. Magical experiments have revealed that pirium’s raw form shares a similar relationship with mana as it does with light, creating negative magic zones where mana is plentiful, and shedding forth an abundance of mana where none would normally be available.
In addition, the Cataclysm is said to have woken the Stone Spirits, who have slumbered since before the Advent of the Strangers. The soul of each Stone Spirit is housed inside its core gem, out of which it can also perceive the physical world, like an eye. Evidently nothing more than a collection of stones held into a vaguely human shape by force of will, some Stone Spirits are the size of a pet, while the greatest are larger than a castle. Unable to speak, the Spirits have not made their agenda known to the denizens of Athanasia, but they always seem to be present when significant events transpire. Word has it they can be killed, however, and there are some who seek to destroy the Spirits before they can enact their allegedly treacherous plans.
Grimoire is a story about a world emerging from childhood into the turmoil of adolescence, with anthropomorphic animals, prevalent magic, and wonder discovered on every page. With the help of ambient intelligences, mages are always searching for some lost word or artifact. Ambitious wunderkinder are constantly on a path of self-discovery and self-mastery, and honorable shamans reconnect their tribes with the wisdom of the past. Awakened dendrites shepherd the land through its many changes, while devoted exemplars seek only to transcend Athanasia and become one with the powers they serve. With so many who seek to write their own story, the tales of many are bound to intertwine. How will your story be told?
Traditional adventures are a must in Grimoire, and every session should feel like one chapter of a larger story. Those chapters might focus on one or two characters each time, but every character should have their moment to realize his or her ultimate goal before the end of the campaign.
Campaigns should be a combination of a main plot (composed by the GM—even if it closely follows a module!) and several character plots (composed by the players for their PCs). Players are encouraged to write an outline for their character’s plot from beginning to end and submit it to the GM before the campaign starts. The GM in turn should draw from these outlines to craft a main plot that carries out as many character plots as possible. The GM should also feel free to throw twists into the plot and give the players something they asked for, but not in the way they expected.
Some of the most satisfying stories (and campaigns) are the ones where each character can benefit from the others’ strengths, and be challenged by their differences. For this reason, players are encouraged to be different from one another (in some aspect besides class). Perhaps they are each a different race, or a different age. Perhaps they are from different areas of the world, or worship different eldritch patrons. Whatever the case, the GM should focus on the differences between characters and use those to create conflict as well as opportunities to support one another. (These moments are excellent fuel for pushing character plots along!)
Any XP progression is permitted, provided it serves the plot.
Magic and Technology
As a relatively young world, most of Athanasia operates in the late Stone and early Bronze Ages. The animal races are little more than primitive tribes, many of which function like humanized versions of their animal counterparts—alpha males lord over the leonians, schools of sirens wander the sea without a dominant leader, and so on. Lacking more complex problems to cope with, the animal races see little need to advance their level of technology as a general rule. As usual, however, there is an exception to every rule.
The most advanced technology comes from the teachings of the Strangers, which has been scarce ever since most of the minor deities left Athanasia’s surface (around the time of the Cataclysm). The Strange Wisdom was primarily recorded and kept by the humans, which affords them technology well into the Iron Age, despite the Strangers’ absence.
Mages are the most organized and curious among the spellcasting classes, and are the most likely to know about and use technology. Shamans and dendrites have access to Strange Wisdom, but they do not use it for technological purposes on a regular basis; only when needed. Exemplars of the Light or Dark may be gifted some level of technological proficiency by their eldritch patron, but devotees of the World Soul shun technology in favor of raw elemental forces. Wunderkinder are often too preoccupied with the challenges posed by their magic to contribute to technological advances, but they are more than willing to take advantage of every edge they can get.
Magic, on the other hand, is used by mages on a professional basis to accomplish many tasks at the level of modern-day convenience. Where the appropriate Mage’s Guild is present, coaches can be enchanted to drive without horses, stone bowls can warm food, and alchemical products can be purchased like medicine from a pharmacy. While other spellcasters might come up with similar conveniences, none are so interested in distributing their inventions as mages.
Necromancy (the Death sphere) has been formally forbidden by the Wizard’s Tribunal, so consorting with undead and raising the dead is taboo in Euzoria. While Restoration (the Life sphere) is not outlawed, the Resuscitate talent resembles Necromancy so closely to the lay observer that no professional practitioner will perform it; once a PC is dead, it’s extremely problematic to bring them back within the boundaries of Euzoria. This doesn’t stop those outside Euzoria from practicing the necromantic arts, however. Leonians, seraphim, shamans, and dendrites are the most reliable sources of this sort of restorative magic.
Among NPCs, advanced talents and rituals are only available to the elite members of a class; archmages (mage), magisters (wunderkind), mystics (shaman), elders (dendrite), and avatars (exemplar) have spent more time and devoted more resources to perfecting their craft. PCs should have access to advanced talents no sooner than 5th level, and even then must learn them from NPCs who know them. Their scarcity or prevalence is entirely within the hands of the GM.
Some spheres are more thematically appropriate for specific races and classes. These are discussed in the Races and Classes sections, below.
Races: In the beginning, all were animals, and all animals were considered zoe (“alive”). There was no distinction between them. After the Strangers came, however, the animals saw how they were different from these new beings, and began to see the differences among one another. It could be said, therefore, that the Strangers unintentionally introduced the concept of race to Athanasia.
Very deliberately, however, the Strangers introduced a new skill that would divide the zoe from one another: Transfiguration (the Alteration sphere). After the Strangers taught the animals how to change their shapes to look more like them, there arose a group of zoe who could match the Stranger’s form with perfection; these were called humans. Those zoe who could not fully master the Stranger’s teachings became the anthropomorphic (animal) races.
Some animals deliberately chose to remain zoe, and the descendants of these are the animals that persist to the current era. The other two groups, however—the humans and the animal races—now consider themselves separate and distinct from one another. In some circles (especially among dendrites, who believe themselves to be the literal descendants of the Strangers) this point can be one of great contention.
Humans and any of the animal races work best in Grimoire. Stats for halflings could be used, but they would be culturally accepted as very short humans (transformed from smaller animals) rather than as a separate race. Use the substitutions listed below from the Advanced Races Guide for the races of Athanasia.
Humans are predominantly located in the Kingdom of Euzoria, though they have many towns and villages throughout Athanasia. Euzoria is governed by a human king and queen as well as the Athanasian Council—a board of advisors from each of Athanasia’s most prominent animal races. The Athanasian Council elects and replaces the king and queen as often as it deems necessary. The council members in turn are appointed by popular consent by the members of their race. Notable exceptions are the draconians, fenrir, and merrows, who reject human government, and thus do not have members on the Athanasian Council.
Being elected to their positions rather than inheriting them from noble family members, Euzoria’s king and queen are rarely married to each other and are otherwise unrelated.
The current king and queen of Euzoria are Inuksuk (“The Right Path”) and Idris Frida Qammutiq (“Ardent Lady of the Peaceful Sleigh”).
There are no special rules for using humans in Grimoire, except that players may use the stats for halflings and still count as human. When used this way, Halfling still functions as a distinct language, but is culturally accepted as a pidgin of Common, used among “the wee ones.” Human spellcasters are equally likely to use any sphere of magic. Refer to the Classes section below for further information.
Bóreans (pronounced: BOR-ee-uns) are mole-folk who keep mostly to their tunnels and mines, known collectively as Bórea Caverns. They spend the vast majority of their time crafting useful items from earth, stone, and metal.
They are notably the only race permitted to mine pirium from the Eye of the World, and manufacture pirium circlets for the Seraphim in return. In light of the dangers wunderkinder pose to Euzoria, the human king and queen have a standing order with the Bóreans for pirium torcs and bracelets designed to diminish a wunderkind’s unintended magical outbursts.
The most notable bórean is Alkandros (“Hardy Strength”), the bearer of Khthonos: the Tomb of Rebirth, one of the five staffs of power. He was also a founding member of the Council of the World Soul and the Tetrassembléia (both now disbanded), and currently sits on the extant Wizard’s Tribunal.
Bóreans use stats for duergar, except they have a burrow speed of 20 feet. They lose all Duergar Spell-like Abilities. Bóreans have the bórean subtype and their own language instead of Dwarven. Bórean spellcasters favor the Nature sphere and earth-themed packages and talents.
Córeans (pronounced: COR-ee-uns) are raven-folk who live on the eponymous Mount Córea in a rookery called Bristlebane that sprawls across the mountain range. They are guided by the tenets of a Stranger known by many names, but the córeans call him either the “First Raven” or “Storm Crow.”
Before the Cataclysm, the córeans lived in a tundra forest near the North Axis. Due to the prophecies of their seers, the córeans were able to escape before they were cast out into orbit along with the North Axis.
Afterwards, when they attempted to return to their tundra forest, they found the seraphim had already erected the Pirium Spire in its place. Seeing the seraphim as opportunistic squatters, the córeans made a pact with the First Raven to blind the seraphim, a curse which was almost immediately mitigated by the seraphim’s eldritch patron.
Enraged that even revenge had been stolen from them, the córeans now seek to confound the seraphim any way they can and eventually reclaim the Eye of the World in the name of the Storm Crow.
The most notable córean was Kariwang (“Magpie”), the bearer of Vulcanus: the Fire of the Forge, one of the five staffs of power. She was also a founding member of the Council of the World Soul. Kariwang perished when Vulcanus was broken by the command of Talulah the siren.
Córeans use stats for tengu, except they have a fly speed of 60 feet (average). Córeans lose Swordtrained and Skill Bonus (Stealth) and gain Hatred against seraphim. Córeans have the córean subtype and their own language instead of Tengu. They add Abyssal and Infernal to their list of bonus languages. Córean spellcasters prefer the Weather sphere and electrical-themed packages and talents.
There is little one can say to a draconian, as the lizard-folk waste little breath with speaking. Instead, they let their fierce elemental exhalations do the talking. Originally from the Sinha Desert (or as the leonians call it, the Akkedis Desert), they have spread out across Athanasia to subdue every other race they encounter, establishing nomadic camps for weeks to months before moving on. Each tribe tends to roam across one particular region of the world, and this familiarity has made it easy for them to travel quickly through this terrain at need.
Draconians can live for thousands of years (if they are not slain by sword or sickness). Born with vestigial wings, draconians continue to grow in size over the centuries until they become fully-fledged dragons. Every draconian tribe owes its allegiance to the tribe’s oldest member, the ajagara (a true dragon), who has grown so enormous that her superiority cannot be questioned. Very few draconians make it to this stage, however, as the ajagara has a tendency to conveniently get hungry around the time one of her descendants becomes a legitimate threat to her superiority.
Many stories are told of the ajagara, and each has a true name, but none outside their tribe has been able to ask what it is and escape alive. Escape dead, yes, but it’s hard to talk when you’re dead. Instead, the dragons are simply known by an appropriate description of their reputation, such as Kunti (“Spear”), who has impaled many challengers on her fearsome tail spike, or Atanka (“Terror”), who regularly terrorizes human villages.
Draconians use stats for lizardfolk (Advanced Races Guide), except they lose Swim and gain Vestigial Wings, Breath Weapon, and Terrain Stride. Draconian spellcasters prefer aggressive magic, and therefore favor the Destruction, Enhancement, and War spheres as well as themed packages and talents that relate to their breath weapon element. Consider using specific alternate racial traits to distinguish between species of Draconians:
Vivipari—Line of Cold, Cold Stride
Gila—Cone of Fire, Desert Stride
Varan—Line of Acid, Forest Stride
Chameleon—15’ Line (Choose element 1/day), Jungle Stride
Horned—Line of Fire, Mountain Stride
Skink—Cone of Electricity, Plains Stride
Basilisk—Cone of Acid, Swamp Stride
Salamander (not true draconians)—Toxic (no breath wpn), Underground Stride
Gecko—Line of Electricity, Urban Stride
Iguana—Cone of Cold, Water Stride
Answering to the typical appearance of a werewolf, the fenrir (singular: fenris) do not suffer from lycanthropy, but retain the natural magic taught to their kind by the Strangers long ago. This allows them to transform into humans as often as they please, though they see the practice as a further dilution of their true nature as wolves. For this reason, they only transform when they wish to pass among humans unnoticed, and usually for unsavory purposes.
Most fenrir see humankind as a corruption of Athanasia’s natural state and seek to purify the world by killing as many as they can. A rare few, however, see humans as a part of the world—creatures who have just as much right to flourish in it as the fenrir. Unfortunately, humans tend to see the violent side of the fenrir more often, and fear them on principle.
The most notable fenris is Einar (“Lone Warrior”), who made it his sole purpose to hunt humankind into extinction. He tore a bloody swath across the forests near the Eye of the World before he could be stopped by a wunderkind named Zoanthros. Zoanthros cursed Einar, forcing his mind and body to revert back to that of a true wolf. Einar later found a way to hold this curse at bay for a few days each month using the magic of the full moon, regaining his hybrid form and his hatred of humankind. Thereafter all humans whom Einar wounded—but did not kill—were subject to Zoanthros’ curse as well…a curse later known as zoanthropy.
Fenrir use stats for kitsune, except that their ability score bonuses are +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Charisma. They lose Kitsune Magic and gain Fast Shifter. Fenrir have the fenris and shapechanger subtypes. Fenris spellcasters prefer the Alteration sphere, as well as talents that cause fear or misfortune, such as Curse (Fate) and Fear (Mind).
Humans that are bitten by Einar or one of his cursed pack must succeed on a DC 22 Fortitude save or contract zoanthropy. The curse of zoanthropy does not actually transform the victim into a wolf, necessarily. Instead, it causes the individual to revert to the form of their zoe ancestors, whatever that might be. Thus a human whose ancestors were lion zoe would become a lion, while a córean would become a raven.
During the three nights (but not days) of the full moon each month, the victim is involuntarily transformed per the Shapeshift (Alteration) power (no save) and is granted the Animal Mind trait. She also gains one of the following Transformation traits, as appropriate: Animalistic, Aquan, Avian, Subterranean, or Vermin. At dawn after each night, the victim loses all traits granted by zoanthropy and she remembers nothing about her actions during the previous twelve hours.
Zoanthropy in Athanasia can only be cured by an elite spellcaster with the Break Enchantment life talent, who must perform a three-night ritual coinciding with the nights of the full moon.
A misleading name, the leonian race is actually made up of many different species of cat-folk, each one part of a different pride. Originally from the Akkedis Desert (or as the draconians call it, the Sinha Desert), the cat-folk were forced out as the draconians become too numerous and violent. Oral tradition tells how the leonians fought bravely, but the draaka (true dragons) were too powerful for them to overcome.
The leonians have since migrated to the Ranai Forest, where they live in relative harmony with the frog-folk. And so long as the ranai stick to their own link in the food chain, it is likely to remain that way.
The most notable leonian is Kléber (“Gift of Promise”), the bearer of Luciflora: the Consuming Glory or Ash of Ash, one of the five staffs of power. He was also a founding member of the Council of the World Soul and the Tetrassembléia (both now disbanded), and currently sits on the extant Wizard’s Tribunal.
Leonians use stats for catfolk. Leonian spellcasters have more eclectic tastes than most races, preferring talents and spheres relating to courage, luck, and life, such as Courage (Mind), Greater Serendipity (Fate), Luck (Protection), and Resuscitate (Life). Consider using specific alternate racial traits to distinguish between species of leonians:
Bengal—Gain Skill Bonus (Craft: Any)
Cheetah—Lose Low-light Vision; gain Sprinter, bonus talent (Divine Future)
House Cat—Lose Natural Hunter; gain Curiosity, Climber
Jaguar—Lose Low-light Vision; gain Nimble Faller, bonus talent (Guardian)
Lion—Lose Natural Hunter; gain Cat’s Claws, Feline Empathy (as Rodent Empathy, but for cats)
Lynx—Lose Low-light Vision; gain Scent, Skill Training (Sense Motive, Survival)
Tiger—Lose Cat’s Luck and Low-light Vision; gain Master Tinker, bonus talent (Invisibility)
Merrows & Sirens
In fact two separate races, sirens are distinctly human from the waist up and have the tails of swimming mammals from the waist down. They are peaceful, inventive, and selfless. Merrows, by contrast, are mostly human-sized lionfish, only having the torso and arms of humans and little else. They tend to be reclusive, suspicious, and selfish.
Despite these distinctions, however, most races of the land and sky tend to get the two confused—a fact which the sirens consider offensive as they are clearly not so ugly, and the merrows consider offensive for the same reason. In reality, however, both are breathtaking in their own respects.
The most notable siren was Talulah (“Leaping Water”), the bearer of Muirtugal: the Endless Sea, one of the five staffs of power. She was also a founding member of the Council of the World Soul and the Tetrassembléia (both now disbanded). Talulah perished when Muirtugal was broken. There is some controversy as to exactly how the staff was broken, but all accounts involve Alkandros of the bóreans discovering a córean wunderkind in possession of Muirtugal, and Talulah buried alive in a sinkhole of mud.
Adapting Merrow & Sirens
Merrows and Sirens are similar enough that they both use stats for merfolk. Merrows lose Low-light Vision and gain Deepsight. They begin play speaking only Aquan. Sirens lose Low-light Vision and gain Seasinger. Merrow and Siren spellcasters both prefer the Mind sphere, as well as Water-themed packages and talents.
Little is known about the ranai, except that the frog-folk share a forest with the leonians in evident peace. This is likely due to each race minding their own business—and their own meals.
Many ranai are dendrites, and they predominantly observe the goings on of the Ranai Forest, subtly supporting the forest’s natural defenses so visiting species cause as little lasting damage as possible. This also makes the forest less tame and hospitable, encouraging travelers to move on, and discouraging refugee races—such as the leonians—from making it a permanent home.
There are few if any notable ranai, as they keep to themselves and tend to nature rather than recognition. One story, however, tells of an elder dendrite known as Sapo Velho (“Old Toad”) who meditated right through the Cataclysm and still hasn’t woken up to this day. They say he has had 150,000 previous lives. And it must be true, for he croaks every night.
Ranai use stats for gripplis. Ranai have the ranai subtype and speak Sylvan instead of Grippli. Ranai prefer the Nature and Weather spheres and plant- and water-themed packages and talents.
Also known as noctangeli (“angels of the night”), the seraphim (singular: seraph) are, it truth, descendants of bats. Their mastery over Strange Wisdom, however, has made it possible for them to appear entirely human except for the pair of wings sprouting from under their shoulder-blades. Their own legends tell how the Strangers called them seraphim after the angels of the Strangers’ home world.
Sometime after the Cataclysm, the seraphim discovered the pirium fields in the Eye of the World and went to investigate this new metal. Their search revealed a citadel made entirely out of pirium, buried almost to the top of the tallest spire. With the help of the bóreans, they excavated it and discovered its secrets, eventually raising it up out of the ground to float many miles above the surface.
The córeans, jealous of the seraphim’s new home, made a pact with the First Raven to curse their rivals with blindness. Fortunately, however, the seraphim pleaded to their eldritch patron, a Stranger of the Dark, and the curse was mitigated. Instead of outright blindness, the eyes of the seraphim became sensitive to the light of day and their skin and hair were turned pure white so that they would always remember their patron’s intercession.
The most notable seraph is Ipiktok (“Keen”), the bearer of Mercurius: the Living Vein or Blood of Ore, one of the five staffs of power. He was also a founding member of the Council of the World Soul and the Tetrassembléia (both now disbanded), and currently sits on the extant Wizard’s Tribunal.
Seraphim use stats for strix, except their wings are bat-like instead of feathered and they have white skin and hair. They gain Hatred against córeans instead of humans, and Light Sensitivity. Seraphim have the seraphim subtype and speak their own language instead of Strix. They add Celestial to their list of bonus languages. Seraphim spellcasters prefer the Dark and Life spheres, as well as talents that prevent or avoid conflict, such as Peacebound and Repel Evil/Good/Law/Chaos (Protection).
The Fey Realm is also known as the Otherworld, and could be compared to an elemental plane in that is both composed of and is the literal source of all magic, much as the plane of fire is composed of and is the literal source of fire, for example. The Fey Realm bleeds into the Material Plane through ley-nodes, and the rivers of magic that pour forth are called ley-lines, which provide Athanasia’s spellcasters with the raw mana necessary to perform magic.
The denizens of the Fey Realm are constantly in a state of flux, but they always take a given form and play a given role in their game of the moment. Those who play games of lighthearted mischief are collectively known as the Seelie Court. Those who seek to do actual harm with their games are known as the Unseelie Court.
Fey can sometimes become stranded in Athanasia from the Fey Realm by passing too close to one of the many ley-nodes scattered across the land. A fey’s form is set the moment she passes into the material plane, and it cannot be changed until she returns to the Fey Realm (although that has rarely been known to happen, as magic only flows into Athanasia, and not the other way around).
This is where the various fey races come from, including dwarves, elves, and fairies (the Seelie Court), and gnomes, goblins, and hobgoblins (the Unseelie court). All fey races prefer the Alteration and Illusion spheres. Use the following special rules for these races:
Dwarves lose Defensive Training and have the Fey type instead of humanoid. Dwarf spellcasters favor the Nature sphere and earth-themed packages and talents.
Elves are tiny instead of medium. They lose Elven Magic and have the Fey type instead of humanoid. Elf spellcasters prefer the Nature sphere and plant-themed packages and talents. Half-elves are a genetic impossibility in Athanasia.
Fairies use the stats for gathlain from the ARG, except they are tiny instead of small. They lose Natural Armor and Spell-like Abilities (entangle, feather step), and gain Light as a bonus sphere. Fairies favor the Telekinesis sphere and air-themed packages and talents.
Gnomes use the stats for svirfneblin from the ARG. Gnome spellcasters prefer the Dark sphere and earth-themed packages and talents.
Goblins use their own racial stats from the ARG. Goblin spellcasters also prefer the Destruction sphere and fire-themed packages and talents. Due to remaining in the Material Plane for so long, goblins have lost their fey nature and are considered humanoids instead of fey.
Hobgoblins use their own racial stats from the ARG, except they are small instead of medium. Hobgoblin spellcasters also prefer the Death and War spheres. Due to remaining in the Material Plane for so long, hobgoblins have lost their fey nature and are considered humanoids instead of fey.
Classes: All non-magical classes are allowed in Grimoire, but any spellcaster should follow the rules for one of the five Grimoire-specific spellcaster classes. In-game, these classes are known by the following names: mage (wizard variant), wunderkind (sorcerer variant), shaman (shaman archetype variant), dendrite (druid variant), and exemplar (cleric variant). Multi-classing is permitted, but should be directly linked to a PCs character plot, a plot-twist, or other story device. The progression of each of these classes is discussed below.
NOTE: For the sake of brevity, the stats for the Grimoire-specific versions of the following classes have not been listed. Instead, classes from Spheres of Power have been adapted to the closest approximation. Please visit spiltinkimaginarium.blogspot.com to see the Grimoire spellcaster classes.
Mage (wizard variant)
Having studied in an academy of arcane education, the mage finds her truest self in the possession and wise use of knowledge. She prizes information above most other treasures and pities the fools who do not have enough sense to use what knowledge they have. To her, magic is a science; empirical and exact. For this reason, the mage’s approach to magic is a practical, methodical, and exhaustive.
A mage in Athanasia begins as a scholar magician in Elementary School, where she learns how to harness the classical elements from arcane textbooks called grimoires. There, she also learns the Wizard’s Creed, a set of ideological tenets that are intended to guide a mage’s actions when using magic. The next step is Dueling College, where she learns the form and function of the Wizard’s Duel, and focuses her arcane learning toward one or more specializations (spheres).
After graduating she is known as a mage, and she may wish to join a Mage’s Guild focused in her specialization, or further her education pursuant to becoming an archmage. Those mages who learn the arcane arts outside of Euzoria’s educational system are known as hedge-mages.
Among spellcasters, archmages are the academic elite, regarded as the foremost authorities in their specializations, even taking part in composing grimoires for the up-and-coming generation of scholar magicians. Archmages may choose to teach in institutions of arcane learning, or establish their own guild. Without exception, however, all archmages aspire to one day become fully-fledged wizards.
Wizards are spellcasters appointed by the Wizard’s Tribunal to be the steward of some powerful magical artifact or crucial ley-line. A wizard is granted a tower in order to better safeguard her magical charge, and she receives a personalized staff from the Tribunal as a symbol of her position. Should a wizard ever fail to follow the Creed or dishonor the Tribunal and her craft, her appointed stewardship is revoked, she is dismissed from her tower, and her staff is broken.
The Wizard’s Tribunal is composed of three governing members: Alkandros of the bóreans, Kléber of the leonians, and Ipiktok of the seraphim, each of whom holds one of the three remaining staffs of power. Based out the Tower of Towers, the Tribunal oversees the creation of arcane curriculum, enforces the proper use of magic by the Wizard’s Creed, and monitors the activities of all wizard’s towers across Athanasia.
Throughout a scholar magician’s education, career as a mage, and her potential appointment as a wizard, she is always seeking knowledge from any source available. The most accessible source is a network of formless, ambient intelligences that pervade the length and breadth of Athanasia. According to extensive academic research, these intelligences are theorized to be the state of fey beings before they materialize in the Fey Realm. Regardless of their true nature, however, they are employed constantly to aid a mage in her research.
The subject of a mage’s research is most often words of power from the language of the Strangers (Druidic), a language that actually defies being written, and is only comprehensively understood by the dendrites. The Wizard’s Tribunal has formally requested that the Circle divulge the language many times, always with the provision that its use would be duly regulated, but over the centuries the Circle has consistently refused.
Mages from Euzoria consider at least some knowledge in Divination and Destruction as essential components of their magical education. Beyond this, they are equally likely to learn any other sphere, with the sole exception of the Death sphere (Necromancy), which is forbidden by the tenets of the Wizard’s Creed. Hedge-mages (from inside or outside Euzoria’s boundaries) do not follow the Creed and acknowledge no such limitations—much to their dismay when the Tribunal sends representatives to censure them...
The mage class is most like the incanter class from Spheres of Power, using Intelligence for the casting ability modifier and the Sphere Specialization class feature. Due to the mage’s reliance on a grimoire to cast spells, the Focus Casting drawback is recommended. This grants the mage Bonus Spell Points accordingly, which are traditionally reserved for her specialization sphere. Given the mage’s training in magical dueling, GMs might consider giving mages Counterspell as a bonus feat at 4th level instead of the usual bonus feat.
Wunderkind (sorcerer variant)
The seventh child of a seventh child, born on a midsummer's eve in a fairy circle, or taken by the fairies as a baby and replaced with a changeling, the wunderkind (plural: wunderkinder) has an innate connection to the Fey Realm, and therefore to magic itself. Wonders and strange happenings follow these magical prodigies from a young age, earning them the epithet "wonderchildren."
Willful to a fault, the wunderkind looks on those who submit themselves to others’ commands with disdain. Experiencing the fullest range of emotion and experience for herself is a wunderkind’s ultimate goal, and it is therein that she finds her power. A wunderkind’s approach to magic is intense, passionate, and personal.
Wunderkinder are shunned by most in Euzoria. The unintentional havoc she is capable of causing at an early age draws the attention of local peacekeepers, who prevent future problematic outbursts by issuing the wunderkinder a pirium torc or bracelet. The magically reactive metal drains the mana from the surrounding area, thus diminishing her chaotic potential. For this reason, any person wearing pirium is immediately identified as a wunderkind and considered “dirty” or “troublesome” by the scholarly spellcasters.
A wunderkind’s only chance for a normal life lies in a safehouse for her kind, called a kindergarten. Typically located outside city limits, each kindergarten is tended by a wunderkind—called a gartner—who is able to help the fledgeling spellcaster harness her emotions and abilities to her benefit, eventually teaching her to control her magic without the use of pirium.
Fortunate wunderkinder are apprenticed to a wanderer (nomadic wunderkind), as a herald, tasked with announcing her master’s arrival at each city they visit within Euzoria’s boundaries. Without pirium to clearly identify the wanderer as a wunderkind, permission must be obtained from the governor of a city before she may enter. The wanderer’s apprentice dons her pirium and negotiates with the governor for her master’s entry rights. No matter how gracious a host the governor may be, however, wanderers and their apprentices are typically permitted to stay inside city limits for only days at a time.
The most prestigious wunderkinder, however, are the magisters, and most wunderkinder seek to join the Magisterium. A group of wunderkinder in a league of their own, the Magisterium is known for hosting an annual 3-day event known as the Gathering outside the boundaries of Euzoria. The Gathering brings together all the wanderers and their apprentices across Athanasia and sets challenges for each to establish a loose ranking system among them, called leagues.
The crowning challenge at the Gathering is the Spectacle, where the most skilled wanderers and apprentices compete for a chance to join the Magisterium, though a rare few succeed. Indeed, it is rumored that the Magisterium have no set terms for inducting new members, and though many outside the Magisterium have claimed to be magisters, the Magisterium’s roster remains mysteriously unchanged.
A wunderkind’s connection to the Fey Realm causes her to prefer the Alteration, Illusion, or Nature spheres, although the expressive nature of her powers can take the form of any sphere.
The wunderkind class is most like a blend of the eliciter and fey adept classes from Spheres of Power. Due to their emotional control, gartners are more like eliciters, while wanderers function like fey adepts. Due to the unpredictability inherent in a wunderkind’s abilities, the Wild Magic drawback is recommended. The Magical Signs drawback is also encouraged, as the Fey Realm makes demonstrations sympathetic to the wunderkind’s mood whenever she uses magic. Further, fey magic is more “willing” to persist than more sterile forms, making it easier for the wunderkind to maintain active effects. This traditionally manifests as the Easy Focus boon.
Shaman (shaman archetype variant)
Sometimes known as a spirit guide or medicine woman (and erroneously labeled "witch doctor" by the ignorant), the shaman not only remembers the dead, she walks with them, communes with them, and draws her power from theirs.
She honors the spirits, whether those of her ancestors, the animals, or the Great Spirit which lives in all things. She believes that to dishonor those who came before is to weaken oneself.
To the shaman, the departed still live, separated only by the mist of mortality called the Æther. One need only learn to part these mists if one wishes to see where the dead continue their journey, and walk beside them.
A shaman's connection to the Æther comes from ancestral influence. Somewhere along the way—intentionally or otherwise—she made contact with the world of spirits. This experience marked her as a liaison between the world of the living and the dead: a medium.
Mediums are revered and given a place of honor in tribal communities outside Euzoria. If they wish to advance their gift, they are given to the tribe shaman as an adopted child, and eventually become shamans themselves. Within Euzoria, however, a medium’s gift is often seen as a haunting—or worse, a possession—and dealt with accordingly. For this reason, very few mediums find the support necessary to become shamans within towns and cities.
Eventually, the more a shaman exposes herself to the spirit world, the more she becomes a part of it. The most advanced shamans—known as mystics—sacrifice their mortal senses to gain yet greater clarity on the other side of the Æther. Mystics walk the boundary between life and death with every step, and some do not even realize when they have died and become ghosts themselves.
Her connection to the Æther makes a shaman likely to use the Death and Life spheres. Her access to the knowledge of the spirit world makes the Divination and Mind spheres likely as well. Those shamans who commune with animal spirits might also take animal-themed talents such as Animal Friend and Speak with Animals (Nature).
The shaman class is most like the soul weaver class from Spheres of Power, using Wisdom instead of Charisma for the casting ability modifier and all relevant class features. As invoking the spirits requires the shaman to connect with them in some symbolic way, the Skilled Casting drawback is recommended, with Profession: Medicine, or a Craft or Perform skill of her choice being the traditional options. The Painful Magic drawback is also encouraged, as exposure to the Æther is unnatural for a still-living soul. Given the shaman’s connection to the world of the dead, the Deathful Magic boon is a logical choice.
Dendrite (druid variant)
All living things were created to create again, and by participating in this circle of life the dendrite participates in nature’s inherent magic. Like the seed, the dendrite is meant to grow, achieve the height of her magical potential, and then pass her strength on to the next generation so that the cycle may continue. A dendrite sees all things—including herself—as zoe, and harnesses the land, the animals, and the plants to perform her magic. This, she believes, gives the lives of her fellow zoe purpose as she increases in wisdom and power.
Dendrites refer to themselves collectively as the Circle, or the Circle of Life. While not strictly an order in the same sense as a group of exemplars, it shares a similar structure. Instead of being led by one dominant leader, however, each dendrite looks to their elders (whether physical or mental) for guidance.
One is either born a dendrite, or will never be one as long as they live. To be One Who Knows the Oaks is a birthright of the Strangers’ true descendants. For this reason, the majority of dendrites are human, although the Circle will not turn away members who happen to be of another race. They do actively contend against those that claim the members of the Circle are not the literal descendants of Strangers, however.
Those who practice druery but are not descendants of the Strangers are called rangers. Only by being inducted into the Circle and participating in the Rites of Fertility can a ranger become eligible for rebirth within the bloodline. Therefore, if you ask a ranger whether all her years living with the Circle will ever result in her becoming a dendrite, the answer must be literally “not in this life.”
Those known to be of the dendritic bloodline begin their education within the Circle at a very young age. The initiate is taught of the cyclical path all dendrites walk. She learns respect for nature, and the rites of the World Soul. She is encouraged to explore the world and search for some soul, location, or object that might spark the fire of her Strange Memory.
At some time during her wanderings, the initiate recognizes a soul with whom she shares a bond like no other, her animal companion, whom she has known through all her lives. Her mind begins to open itself to knowledge she once had, other souls she was once acquainted with, and experience from her former lives. This event, called the Awakening, marks the beginning of her true life as a dendrite.
A dendrite’s awakening continues throughout her life. Indeed, she does not truly learn new skills or develop new talents, she simply remembers the ones she already had and picks up where she left off.
Some dendrites literally dedicate their lives to meditating on their past incarnations, only to come out of the trance decades later. When they do so, they bear centuries of experience, and—no matter their apparent age—are thereafter known as elders, for they have truly become old souls.
Dendrites have access to the powers of the physical world, favoring the Dark, Enhancement, Light, Nature, and Weather spheres. Their meditations on the circle of life make the Death, Divination, and Life spheres logical choices as well.
The dendrite class is most like the hedgewitch class from Spheres of Power, using Constitution instead of the provided options for the casting ability modifier. This is the result of having the Draining Casting drawback, and the Fortified Casting boon. This represents a dendrite’s magic being derived from their Strange bloodline. The Verbal Casting drawback is also encouraged, as dendrites must speak the language of the Strangers (Druidic) in order to command nature. The Green Magic and Herbology hedgewitch traditions are traditional choices for a dendrite.
Exemplar (cleric/witch variant)
An exemplar exercises faith in an eldritch patron—be it a Stranger, the Soul of Athanasia itself, or some other powerful otherworldly entity—to bring about miracles which would never be possible by mortal means. She qualifies for these abilities by entering into a covenant with the being that supplies her power.
This class represents the righteous prophet who serves as the instrument of her god’s will, the priestess of a nature goddess who does as she will but vows to harm none, or the willing thrall of a demon who seeks to spread darkness across the land.
In Athanasia, a worshipper of the Light or Dark joins an order and is called a priestess (male: priest). A devotee of the World Soul joins a coven and is known as a witch (male: wicker). Each order and coven is different, even among those of the same eldritch patron, but each is commonly led by an experienced member who officiates at gatherings and admonishes members to remain faithful to their oaths.
The ways an exemplar conducts herself—as well as the nature and extent of her powers—are based entirely on the terms of her oath. An exemplar’s faithfulness to the oath is rewarded with an increase in power, eventually permitting her to become one with the power she serves. Such scions of Strange Power are called avatars.
On the other hand, breaking her oath can only be interpreted as a rejection of her patron, leaving herself open to the domination of opposing forces. Such oathbreakers become hags (male: warlock).
The Fate sphere best characterizes the influence of the eldritch patron in the life of the exemplar. Exemplars of the Light or Dark must take those spheres in order for their covenants to make any sense. Exemplars of the World Soul traditionally take the Destruction sphere, although the Creation and Nature spheres are available to those with an open mind.
While the thaumaturge class from Spheres of Power best fits the concept of the exemplar, the mechanics of that class does not capture the full scope intended here. Instead, Grimoire’s exemplar can best be adapted to Spheres of Power by using a combination of the Cleric Domains and Sorcerer Bloodline class features of the incanter class. The Neutrality (Fate) sphere-specific drawback is also recommended, as eldritch patrons are neither good nor evil, but defined by their very nature and balanced by their opposites.
An exemplar uses Charisma for her casting ability modifier and all relevant domain and bloodline abilities. In addition, patrons offer the option of increased power at the cost of an additional sphere-specific drawback. The following packages give a sample domain/ bloodline/ drawback portfolio for each patron type (there may be several distinct patrons that fall under each category):
Stranger of the Light—Light Subdomain (Sun), Celestial Bloodline (Empyreal Archetype), Touch of Light (Light) drawback
Stranger of the Dark—Night Subdomain (Darkness), Shadow Bloodline (Umbral Archetype), Meld into Dark (Dark) drawback
Aspect of the World Soul (choose one):
Air—Storms Subdomain (Weather), Elemental Bloodline (Air), Energy Focus (Destruction) drawback: Air Blast or Electric Blast
Earth—Caves Subdomain (Earth), Elemental Bloodline (Earth), Energy Focus (Destruction) drawback: Crystal Blast or Stone Blast
Fire—Ash Subdomain (Fire), Elemental Bloodline (Fire), Energy Focus (Destruction) drawback: Fire Blast
Water—Ice Subdomain (Water), Elemental Bloodline (Water), Energy Focus (Destruction) drawback: Frost Blast
The Wu Xing
An alternative school of thought called the Wu Xing acknowledges five elements instead of four. These include earth, fire, water, metal, and wood. Those exemplars who study the Wu Xing can choose from the following portfolios in addition to earth, fire, and water, listed above:
Metal—Metal Subdomain (Earth), Deep Earth Bloodline, Material Focus (Creation): Basic Metals [does not provide an extra magic talent]
Wood—Plant Domain, Verdant Bloodline, Verdant Geomancer (Nature) [custom drawback]: You can only use the Plantlife package and can only gain (plant) geomancing talents. You cannot gain Expanded Geomancing, or any (spirit) talents, unless they are also (plant) talents. You must select a (plant, geomancing) talent with the bonus talent granted by this drawback.
Each exemplar is bound by the oaths of her covenant, which are requirements established by her eldritch patron. Oaths function like the edicts of the samurai class (Ultimate Combat). There are traditionally three oaths associated with every covenant, but it is ultimately up to the GM how many to include. GMs should provide several covenant packages for their players to choose from, keeping the main plot of the campaign and the PC’s character plot in mind.
Should the exemplar ever break one or more of her oaths, she becomes a hag. A hag loses the domain/ bloodline/ drawback package of her former eldritch patron and instead gains the package of the opposing patron. In addition, her infidelity leaves her vulnerable to the will of her new master. Some depraved exemplars will actually make oaths to a patron with plans to break those oaths deliberately and become a hag on purpose!
GM NOTE: Deliberately breaking an oath should always trigger a plot twist or some other character development event, especially one that does not work out in the PCs favor.
For the purposes of determining which patron hags are subjected to, light traditionally opposes dark, fire opposes water, and earth opposes air. In the Wu Xing, however, the aspects of the World Soul actually oppose one another in a destructive cycle. In the following sequence each element is opposed by the element listed after it: fire, water, earth, wood, metal, and fire. Thus, if an exemplar of wood ever broke an oath, she would become a hag of metal.
Hags and warlocks are not bound by oaths. Instead, their new patron typically subjects them to a Geas (Fate advanced talent). Particularly sadistic patrons command their thralls to perform an impossible task (such as filling a sieve with water) and watch as they slowly wither away (from ability penalties) as they fail to perform it. Benevolent patrons might be more lenient and assign a task that amounts to community service for the rest of the hag’s life.
The Geas of an eldritch patron is more potent than that of ordinary spellcasters; even if the geas is broken through the Break Enchantment (Life) talent, or the hag discovers some way to fulfill the task and recover her lost ability points, any penalties to Charisma accrued over the course of the Geas can never be restored.
|Map of Athanasia | Post Cataclysm|