Occult Presence in the Steel Realms
Wizards of the Steel Realms are bound in Master-Apprentice or guild relationships. Adventurer wizards are difficult in that they must seek out places of power, places of ancient knowledge that are un-looted, creatures of power, or kill other wizards. Killing other wizards runs the risk of incurring the wrath of the guild or master they are tied to.
Alliances: Many orders forge alliances with other orders. The exchange of students, current events, some knowledge, access to items and places of study and magical knowledge, and just mundane benefits (places of rest, basic sustenance, a place to congregate with like-minded individuals, etc.). Each order’s description will list its alliances and what level of presence the allied members must have in order to gain benefits.
An spell book is passed down as part of a family or business prize. The character’s natural aptitude and study allow them to master it by will alone – with a great deal of study and practice. The character’s beginning spell book represent just such a tome. The advantage of being self taught is that none know your true capabilities and you are beholden to no one for knowledge or your station.
Guilds and Brotherhoods
Institutions and groups offers avenues of training that are faster and safer than self discovery. These are generally based around 1-2 schools; most around a single school/focus that they do well. Members in the context of group benefits means fully paid up in dues, and in good standing*.
* “Good Standing” May mean different things for different groups – generally the promotion (wearing of colors and symbols openly, attributing it partially to the success of a character in public, acknowledging special days and ceremony, etc.); the member is basically not in discord with the order/groups administration and general perspective. They must possess some rank within the group.
- Trivial Presence: Theme members get basic services – a place to rest, meager fare, replenish mundane supplies – for their modest minimum or 5% tithe. Services like legal advice come at a reduced price.
- Minor Presence: Minor members largely go unheard and are mostly in it for a little knowledge without having to commit to a major tithe (10% of their income generally) and support. Services like legal advice are generally free (without complications).
- Major Presence: Major members of the guilds are active and pay a major tithe (25% of their income generally). They report on their whereabouts and adventures (without giving away secrets of the PC’s) and information they have gained in order to better inform their brothers and sisters. Services like legal advice are free. They officiate some ceremony and participate in group administration.
- Preeminent Presence: As with Major Presence, but they are leaders and representatives within the community and are part of higher group administration. A certain amount of time each year must be allocated to maintaining their presence.
- Familiar Options:
- TRAINED: Some orders specialize in breeding familiars. Instead of a purely spiritual presence, the Find Familiar spells creates a bond between a magus and a real animal. the animals are trained from birth, and have more HP, sometimes a better AC (by 1, no more) and do not detect as magical. They can be “dismissed” to a demi-plane, and re-summoned to keep them out of danger like a normal familiar. If they die, its a real creature that dies, all memories and connections are lost and the round in which it dies the bonded magus suffers disadvantage in all their actions until their next turn. It cannot change its shape, but it can cast any non-damage cantrip its bonded magus can as an Action, 3/Long Rest.
- SPIRIT SWARM: The Find Familiar spell is tuned into a specific familiar animal. The familiar is able to transform into a swarm, using up its power and it cannot reconstitute for 24 hours. It takes the form of the associated swarm it can becomes – bat, rat, raven, insect, etc. and does not change from this form.
- Occult Focus: A Guild should be assumed to have every spell of the schools it is related to available for members to inscribe
- Occult Test: Each level a character gains, they can be tested (and the level increase noted in the rolls) and will gain access to the inscription archive to inscribe 2 new spells for Major Presence, 1 for Minor Presence. For Major members, a DC 20 Persuasion check can gain a character an extra spell. If the spell is in the groups Occult Focus they can automatically find it, otherwise the chance their group has the spell they seek is DC 20 for tiny, DC 15 for small, DC 10 for average and DC 5 for prevalent groups – it depends on their size and resources.
- Magical items and knowledge can be exchanged for additional spells, depending on individual group rules.
- All groups have Occult Thresholds for those with Major Presence; each threshold represents an opportunity for the character to prove themselves worthy.
- Can teach Magic Initiate, Ritual Caster feat
MINOR+ Presence Benefits
- Each level: A Potion and scroll of a common spell or 2
- 1st level: Can teach Spell Sniper and War Caster feats
- Each 3rd level starting at 3rd: A minor magic item (limited charges); (DC 13 Persuasion check) and gain a major magical item (charges regained/permanent).
- 5th level: A Lore +2
MAJOR+ Presence Benefits
- 6th: Each level starting at 6th and after the institution member can make a DC 9 Intelligence check to learn to use Light Armor. Once a character’s magic powers are good enough, they can focus on protecting themselves.
- 8th: Staff, Rod or Wand
Masters are personal sponsors and mentors. Their spell library should be worked out ahead of time by the GM and player. The player would have gravitated toward apprenticing with a wizard whose magics they were interested in.
Places of Power
Fonts of other-planar activity often contain hidden patterns and occult means of pulling knowledge from them; knowledge which may be inscribed in a spell book or scroll.
Place of Ancient Knowledge
In the realms, there is a habit if inscribing occult knowledge on stone tablets and metal sheets (preferred/most common) – as a sort of permanent record for guilds and owners to fall back on in the event of a fire or loss of spell book. Such items can be reverse engineered and a spell inscribed in a spell book or scroll. This is where such things have not already been looted – making it difficult to ascertain if a “trip to the local ruins” will be worth it for the local wizard.
Creatures of Power
Ancient and powerful creatures can be controlled and compelled, befriended, or persuaded to share their occult knowledge. Ghosts, spectres, liches, dragons, and all manner of good and evil legendary creatures possess arcane and occult knowledge which can account for feats and spell knowledge.
Challenge other Wizards
Formal: Wizard Duels
A wizard can be challenged to a duel on 3 grounds: 1) Personal Enmity (grudge – usually to the death); 2) Worthiness (reputation); and 3) Challenge of Knowledge (often times personal knowledge is put forth in a contest – loser must give up some of their hard won knowledge – both parties pledge ahead of time).
Chance: Adventuring Encounters
Coincidental – during their travels one wizard comes upon another in a situation that puts them at odds and one’s death is another’s gain. Killing a wizard bound to a master or guild is no small thing and should be considered before done. The enmity of the wizard’s superiors may not be worth it. Defeat can be a stripping of their items, including spell book, without death… but sometimes it is necessary or cannot be helped.
Occult Accouterments and Equipment