Friday 7 November 2014

Witchmarks (and some news)

I have written this thing for Lamentations of the Flame Princess called England Upturn'd; James Raggi says it will be ready to be published some time in the new year. (Lamentations blog link).

At the moment it's being edited, and then there will be layouts and illustrations and all that jazz to be sorted, which I am really glad that James is handling – I used to be an editor myself and I know what a pain the jaxie coordinating that kind of stuff can be and I doubt I have the patience and eye for detail for it anymore.

England Upturn'd is set in the English Civil War – I blogged about it here, here and here. I tried to use the DCC ruleset, but I regretted it and was on the point of jacking it in and switching to LotFP anyway when James got in touch and asked me about taking over a project to write an ECW sandbox. DCC is a great game, don't get me wrong, but it is a zillion times more complicated to write magic for than a retroclone like LotFP, and what I had in mind involved a lot of spells.

So while all the proper professional publishing malarkey is happening here are few more odds and ends about the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. (The term 'English Civil War' is a gross and Anglocentric simplification of the complex and bloody goings on in the British Isles between 1639 and 1653, but I guess I'll have to keep using it as it is the one everyone has heard of.)


Under the floorboards of Knowle House (Gareth Fuller/PA)

James I and VI of England and Scotland stayed at Knowle House in 1605. He had recently survived the infamous Gunpowder Plot, where Guy Fawkes and a group of Catholic plotters had tried to blow him and parliament sky high. It has recently been discovered that the inhabitants of Knowle tired to make the house witch-proof by carving marks into the joists under the floor boards. (News Link).

Witchmarks like these are actually quite common in 17th century and older buildings, unobtrusively scratched into the wood to keep evil spells at bay.

In the fantasy ECW Witchmark is a 3rd Level Magic User spell, that can also be used as a 3rd Level Cleric spell by Catholic priests only.

Magic User level 3, Cleric level 3
Duration: One year per level or until destroyed
Range: Touch

The caster scratches a pattern of V and M shapes, or of overlapping circles or criss-cross mazes or nets into a piece of wood that is part of the fabric of a building, each mark having a different effect. It can be on a door, a joist, a floorboard, a window frame, anything, though it is usually advisable to cast it somewhere that isn't immediately visible. It can also be cast quickly with a bit of chalk.

The mark will affect a Magic User, undead or disembodied spirit that passes line it defends, causing the victim to stop in their tracks as if hit by a Force of Forbidment spell. It may defend up to a ten foot width of portal, passage or (where you are worried about incorporeal ghosts and demons) wall.

It will also enable any object it is marked on (and this will include entire buildings) to gain a +2 to their save vs destructive magic such as Fireball.

  • The V and M shapes invoke the Virgin Mary and will repel undead, effectively casting a Turn Undead spell on any such being passing the line. A Magic User using this form will have the same effect as a level 1 Cleric or as a level 2 Cleric if he is a Roman Catholic. Clerics have half their level in effect. Intelligent and corporeal undead may save vs Spells and if they succeed may deface the Witchmark and dispel it; if they fail they may not even look upon the mark.
  • The overlapping circles will repel Magic Users. A Magic User may make a save vs Magical Device to pass. If they fail the save they may use their Search Skill at + 1 per 2 Magic User levels to locate the Witchmark, and if they can deface it by scratching across it with an enchanted or silver implement they can permanently dispel it. If drawn in chalk it is simplicity itself to deface by splashing water on it, or even urinating on it.
  • The net and maze shapes act against summoned demons, witches familiars, homunculi and other such possessed and otherworldly creatures. They are fatally obsessed by the intricacies of the pattern and will hover over it tracing the maze out unable to pass it by. The creature must save vs Magical Device at a penalty equal to the caster's level, but may add its Intelligence and Wisdom bonuses if it has any. The creature is rooted to the spot, but may still attack physically and by magic if any target presents itself, and may of course be attacked.

If the demon is made from some outré substance such as dream stuff, shadow, flowing colours, etc then it fades into and inhabits the mark as if it was a real maze. In this case no body is left in the real world to attack, but the demon can still attack anything that gets too close to its new home. Some kind of magical ritual may be necessary to dismiss the demon; the magician may open a portal to the pocket dimension of the Mark and pursue and slay the demon in the maze he has created for it; you may be able to extract the piece of wood from the building and either bury it or burn it, damaging the demon before releasing it. Or you may just abandon the building as irredeemably haunted and tainted until the Witchmark loses it's potency in several years time and hope some bunch of hapless adventurers has stumbled on and slain the vengeful demon in the interim.

That's a pretty long spell description as it is, can you imagine the tables it would take to do it in DCC with all the tables and gradations of effect?

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