In a previous post, I wrote about the wizards of Aurikesh, my tabletop setting, for the Ways of the Wise RPG Blog Carnival. Today I’m doing the same for my LARP setting, Dust to Dust. To be clear, the Campaign Staff and many of the players contributed to the setting, so it’s mine in a shared sense.
In the world of Dust to Dust, “wizard” does not exclusively define any one skill set. Some people use the word only in reference to ritualists, while others might also include channelers, invokers, alchemists, magical scribes, forge magi, and other, rarer magics under that term.
Ritualists, then, are those who have been initiated into power by the Master’s Rite of the Scarred Soul. They can cast rituals to place enchantments upon creatures, and to bind spells into a focus for later activation. They are heavily inspired by the general style of Vancian magic, though more in its original sense than in Gygax’s formation of it: there are no slots or spell levels, per se. Instead, ritualists spend an amount of Fatigue that varies by the spell. Because DtD is a game with plenty of opportunities for spell-induced murder, experienced ritualists can prepare a lot more than Turjan of Miir‘s four spells at a time.
The rituals that they cast are individual text props that they put in their spellbooks. Cabals of ritualists can amass quite sizable grimoires; I would casually estimate that some cabals have 40+ spells. Ritualists can prepare spells individually or cooperatively – there are fairly involved mechanics there, but the point is that ritualists both need each other for spellcasting and arcane research, and compete with one another to be the individual or cabal with the most spells, the best spells, the greatest prestige… in short, they are proud, and most are more than a little vain.
Alchemists, magical scribes, forge mages, celestial channelers, and some other types of casters also amass spellbooks, though celestial channelers mostly don’t have written spells – just a very few of their spells require a written prop, as a way to store data on the most complex of their spells.
The society of ritualists in Dust to Dust has been shaped by many negative influences: their own greed and ambition, the malicious intervention of the Most Foul’s servants, and official suppression of magical practice by the Church (that is, the dominant religion – not all religions) and some kingdoms. On many occasions in the setting’s history, ritualists have attempted to organize themselves into schools for magical study. Each time, these schools have been cast down in ruin and recrimination by one force or another. In the distant past, there were whole city-states ruled by the Wise, but wizards serving the Most Foul rose to power, and they became bastions of horror and evil. Because of these divisions, there is no internal regulation or policing of ritualists, only endless internecine conflict.
In many ages of the world, spell research has been incredibly difficult due to unavailability of texts and the constant struggle between cabals. At other times, there are brief and shining lights of learning: old spells are rediscovered and new ones created. The present day is one such time. Duplicating spells is one of the chief tasks that keeps scribes fat and happy.
At any given time, there are tens of thousands of ritualists in the known world, though most of them never amount to much – they learn a few spells and use those spells to defend themselves or make some money. Ritualists of greater strength are relatively rare; there might be as many as ten in most major cities. Of these, a tiny handful are the leading minds of their generation, whose names are remembered throughout history: Daughter of Amethyst, Jukka, Oroldea, Laban Agia, Avelmar, Azerlin, Kreios, Xyan the Traitor, Isto, Jytharic, the Magus Cestacis, Ylipo Varas. Martel the Builder.
Spells have names like the Rune of Threefold Flame, the Bloodmark of the Tempest’s Rage, or the Rite of the First Gatehouse. Many of these names point to specific historical events or elements of the setting; the magic works by imitating the power and significance of that moment, person, place, or artifact. (This is a sneaky ploy to teach players the history of the setting, and to make scholarly engagement with the setting a fundamental part of being any of the different kinds of wizard.)