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Anatomy of a Spell

Anatomy of a Spell

Article #4 – Sacred Oath (Nature Magic)
By Alzandrion

Level 1: Nature Magic Spell. Read spell description for exact effects. (Rifts World Book Eighteen: Mystic Russia page 130, Book of Magic page. 168). For purposes of copyrights, full spell can not be reprinted here.

Spell Summary
Since the last article focused on a spell I find is heavily used, I figured I’d forego traditional magic altogether with this article. Thank you to Josh for posing an intriguing recommendation for Article #4, but don’t worry DF, your four spell list will take stage at the end of September. This month, we’ll look at the spell of Sacred Oath, a Nature Magic spell that would easily be voted the worst spell in all of book and electronic gaming everywhere in the world, ever. That is unless we find a use for it. As of now, there is NO reason why player would waste a spell slot on this one. It provides no tangible or intangible net benefit to the character whatsoever, yet there is a huge downside. And the parent O.C.C. of Old Believer in Mystic Russia does not even require the character to take this spell. Why is it so bad? Well, first you must read it for yourself. Sacred Oath, sure it’s respectable in a spiritual sort of way, but this is Rifts. In a nutshell, the character swears an oath to Mother Earth; it does not say the scope of such an oath. Are you swearing off beef and poultry forever? Are you taking an oath of celibacy? Are you swearing off swearing? The text doesn’t say, yet it does say that the character “can not lie or break his word”. Yet, as the text is ambiguous, I feel it’s referring to the character not breaking the vow. I do not interpret this as meaning that the character can no longer lie or break his word at all, because that’s a huge alignment shift. In the event you break this solemn oath to Mother Earth, the penalties are huge. Break the oath once, all magical powers are cut in half. Break the oath again, all powers are gone. Want your powers back? Go meditate for a week, drop 2D6 H.P.’s and 2D6 P.P.E points permanently into the dirt, then hopefully a tree pops up out of the ground to show that you have your powers back (And that Mother Earth likes you again). Now why would you do this despite the fact that no initial P.P.E. cost is required? The “spell” itself doesn’t state a reason. It’s obviously a deep rooted (no pun intended) religious belief that I feel would be intended for the Old Believer class, but they left it out.

Possible Origins
This spell, or ritual, or what should have been an Old Believer O.C.C. requirement seems to have originated in Russia. But this is Rifts, and it’s magic, so that answer is almost surely false. The fact of the matter is, nature is not restricted to the land of Russia, nor is the dedication to Mother Earth. Native Americans, South Americans, African shamans, aborigines, druids, and countless ancient tribes across the globe have sworn fealty to the ground beneath their feet long before, or at the same time as man set foot upon what is now Russian soil. Man’s migration to far and distant lands did not come before man’s connection with the globe. It was our connection that gave us the courage and the will to travel. So this Sacred Oath to “Damp Mother Earth” must have come in dozens of forms for thousands of years before this more customized version came about. The fact of the matter is, this mystical connection would have originated where mankind first created a society consisting of community and spirituality. That location is still up for debate, but I don’t recall Russia being a runner up. Gaia is the “God” most commonly referred to as Mother Earth, the one who dwells within the physical orb itself and is the consciousness behind the living Earth. So if a simple answer of origin is what you seek, “She” would be your answer.

Outside the Box
Time to get wizardly! So we have discussed just how useless this so called spell is, and now it’s time to make lemons into lemonade. Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a wizardly player character who really wants to have the ability to turn Swords to Snakes (great visual), or impose Speed of the Snail upon a victim (works on almost anything!), or even bring a person back to life for a mere 200 P.P.E. How do you get access to such a cool repertoire of spells? Hmm... Remember that useless spell mentioned before? There you have it, an actual purpose for a seemingly useless spell. Players often want spells that are outside their range of spell knowledge. I’m not suggesting that you should allow them access to powerful spells beyond the campaign’s experience level, but “schools” of magic at a power level comparable to their own couldn’t hurt. After all, there are only so many spell slots, and if a wizard is intent on making magical bee honey, who are you as GM to say no?

So now this spell has become an avenue to allow a certain O.C.C., we’ll say Ley Line Walker, to have access to Nature Magic. He/She swears an oath to Mother Earth and receives in turn the ability to learn Nature Magic in addition to the normal selection of spells. The GM should make up the details of that oath, perhaps requiring repeated sessions of meditation or prayer, or perhaps a mission from Mother Earth. Now, some of you may say that I just made up a house rule here, and to you I say that I believe this is what Palladium intended. There are hefty penalties involved, a spell that has yet to be used in the history of Palladium, an avenue for players to better define their character, no loss of game balance, and an addition of color through role-playing.

If you do not accept my judgment here, you are truly missing out, and not open minded enough to GM a group of wizards. If you accept my interpretation, then we have opened the door to some truly great possibilities.

Spell Anatomy
So what does this spell most resemble in game? In my opinion, based on what I’ve said, I’d liken it to the Shifter’s Link to the Supernatural. You make a commitment with a far greater entity in order to gain magical knowledge, and with a hefty penalty. A Shifter might become food for a baalrog, and a practitioner of Nature Magic might lose one’s way, become disconnected with nature, and lose all magical abilities completely only to spend points forever in order to get that magical power back.

Sacred Oath, though seemingly useless at first glance, can be greatly adapted to virtually any other spell type that a player might want access to. Like anything else, it would help a character round out himself or herself, and give the GM a tool for a plot or subplot. In the case of Nature Magic, the spell of Sacred Oath must first be attained before a player would be allowed to take on even more spells from that category. Sacred Oath can be researched like normal under Through the Glass Darkly rules mentioned below, or (and more likely), the Sacred Oath might be taught to a player by an elder, medicine man, gypsy, or any nature oriented man or woman of authority anywhere on the globe. This should not be restricted to Russia, and can easily be adapted to Native Americans, Inuit, Inca, Aztec, African tribes, Australia, England’s druids, and fairies, Biomancers, Elves, Millenium Druids, and the list goes on. Nature Magic can be an extension of each, just as Bone Magic is an extension of Necromancy and Ley Line Magic is an extension of typical Invocation. Any player attempting to take this Sacred Oath will certainly be a nature oriented person. It’s not intended to be used by Techno-Wizards and city lovers unless the story calls for it. GM’s should not allow a player access to another school of magic for sheer accumulation of power by itself. It should be story driven.

Spell Rating: 4 out of 5
Yeah, 4 out of 5, can you believe it? That's why I wrote about it. This spell is no longer just another way to launch a fireball at a suit of power armor. It has become a utility device and, if used correctly, can be a great addition to a wizard’s spellbook. This is the spell that Lt. Dunbar would have been taught in Dances with Wolves, if they had magic. In the case of Nature Magic, I feel this ritual should be handed down, not purchased in stores. It should have no geographical restrictions, and as we will discuss, can be easily adapted into any campaign using magic.

Spell Combos
The spell itself offers no combos. It’s actually one better. The spell, or ritual, is an initiating device that can allow a wizard to further his or her own knowledge in a particular school of magic. The spell of Sacred Oath can be bought, learned, or researched, but in this case I feel it should be handed down. As it opens up a whole other area of magic for a character, I feel it ranks higher than a combo in every regard.

Spell Modifications
NOTE: Rules for spell modifications/variations of existing spells can be found on p. 38 of Nightbane WB 3: Through the Glass Darkly (TtGD). Penalties, bonuses, and changes to spell level do apply, as per TtGD.

Optional rules: This whole article is an optional unto itself, but I reiterate that I feel this is what Palladium truly intended this spell to be, an avenue to allow access to a universal school of magic (to anyone from Earth that is.) I do not feel that players should be allowed to modify the actual spell of Sacred Oath. In addition, I encourage GM’s (not players) to modify this spell and make it suitable for other schools of magic relevant to their campaign.

Modified Sacred Oath Spells, Nature Magic

Leap of Faith
Range: Self only.
Duration: Instant.
Saving Throw: Not applicable.
P.P.E.: 0
Level: Considered a 1st level Air Elemental spell.

Leap of Faith is a continuous daily ritual involving offerings to a greater air elemental being. The practice involves the sacrifice of self, and another. To accomplish this, the wizard expels all air from his or her lungs, and prays silently for 1D4 minutes (while holding one’s breath) each day to capture the attention of the elemental being. A burnt offering is then performed, consisting of the cremated remains of an aviary creature such as a bird or insect. Ashes are thrown into the wind off a tall cliff, bridge, or building at least one hundred feet high. This must be performed each day for one full year, or the cycle is broken. (GM’s are obliged to elapse some time before start of a campaign so that fulfillment of this ritual occurs during game time.)

After 365 days, the wizard leaps from the ritual’s location (sacrifice of self) to the ground below. No spells or devices may be used to prevent one’s utter demise. If the rituals were all performed correctly, the wizard will be empowered by the air elemental being by bestowing an initial spell of Levitate or Float in Air. The wizard will also have access to air elemental spells at his or her next level increase. If the ritual was performed incorrectly, the character will have to roll to survive the one hundred foot fall.

Please keep in mind that the player character has little way of knowing if the elemental being is good or evil. Usually, the alignments are similar, as a power hungry character will gather the attention of an evil air elemental being. A character seeking the means to destroy evil with air elemental knowledge will often gather the attention of a good being. Lyn-Srial and fairies have been known to perform this ritual to attain greater power over the wind and weather often to battle evil, and bind their wings in rope on the final day to satisfy the ritual.

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