Saturday, April 8, 2023

'All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream' The Illusionist Within The Castles & Crusades Rpg In A Sword & Sorcery Rpg campaign And Into The World of Athas


So with the Easter holiday upon us, the various OSR campaigns this weekend have been called off. However this means reading & research on my part as the for our upcoming Castles & Crusades rpg games. And today between Easter preparations  got a chance to catch this quick video by the Gaming Gang on 'Why You Should Play Castles & Crusades' here.  And one of the things that Jeff highlighted at the duck taped studios was about his desire to play a C&C illusionist. And this video got me thinking why?! What makes the C&C illusionist different?! First go check out Jeff's video. He does a damn fine overview of the C&C Player's Handbook. 

The illusionist in Castles & Crusades really has thier advantages within the spell casting department;"Spells: An illusionist casts arcane spells like a wizard; however, illusion magic is inherently different and requires a unique spell list. Like a wizard though, an illusionist is limited to a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. The Illusionist Spells Per Day Table shows the number of spells per day an illusionist may cast. An illusionist must prepare spells before casting them. This is done by studying spells from a spell book. While studying, the illusionist decides which spells to prepare for the day. Spell memorization and descriptions are covered in the Magic – Preparing Spells section." And this also extends to thier spell books as well; "The number of spells that a an illusionist has in their spell book at the beginning of play is equal to the number of spells they can cast at first level. A 1st level illusionist with 14 Intelligence can cast four 0 level spells and three 1st level spells (2 + 1 bonus). So, the character would begin play with a spellbook containing four 0 level and three 1st level spells. The spells in the spell book can either be chosen by the Castle Keeper, the player, agreement between the two or randomly"  As well as within thier bonus spells; "With a high intelligence score, an illusionist gains bonus spells. If the character has an intelligence of between 13- 15, they can memorize an extra 1st level spell. If the intelligence score is 16 or 17, they can memorize an extra 2nd level spell and if 18 or 19, they can memorize an extra 3rd level spell. The bonus spells can only be acquired if the illusionist is at a high enough level to cast that spell level. Bonus spells are cumulative. Example: a 4th level illusionist with an 18 intelligence receives four 0 level spells, four 1st level spells, and three 2nd level spells. No bonus 3rd level spell is acquired until the illusionist reaches 5th level." 
There's also a sense here that the occult training of C&C illusionists is pretty interesting & intense as thier masters or mistresses training them are trying to break thier sense of reality. And given thier special abilities of the PC class it's not hard to see this; "Sharp Senses: An illusionist’s innate ability to distinguish the real from the unreal imparts a +1 bonus to all illusion saving throws. The bonus increases to +2 at 4th level, +3 at 7th level, +4 at 10th level, +5 at 13th level and +6 at 16th level. Disguise (Charisma): Using magic and props, the illusionist can disguise himself and impersonate others. The effort requires 1d3x10 minutes of work. A disguise can include an apparent change of height or weight of no more than one-tenth the original. The Castle Keeper makes the character’s check secretly, so that the player is not sure if the disguise is successful. Illusionists can use spells, like change self, to augment their disguise and give them a greater chance of success. The following modifiers are applied to a disguise check when appropriate: sex difference -2; race difference -2; age difference -2 per 10 years. Success indicates a disguise good enough to fool normal observers. The Castle Keeper may allow a suspicious observer an intelligence check to see through the disguise. If the observer is familiar with the person being impersonated, they gain a bonus of +4 to the intelligence check. If the person being impersonated is a close associate or friend of the observer, the check is made at +8. Additionally, disguises must be occasionally changed to remove suspicion." 
Let's just stop right there and peer deeper into the gathering gloom of the illusionist here for a moment. The illusionist is given to peer into the edges of reality moving them through what is and is not reality as they define it. For a Sword & Sorcery style campaign the illusion takes on a whole other meaning where reality itself is the play thing of the illusionist. And it is the final abilities of the illusionist that remind me of The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune  (1929) by Robert Ervin Howard ;"“Tell me, wizard,” he said, sitting before the mirror, eyes fixed intently upon his image, “how can I pass yon door? For of a truth, I am not sure that that is the real world and this the shadow; at least, that which I see must exist in some form.”

“See and believe,” droned the wizard. “Man must believe to accomplish. Form is shadow, substance is illusion, materiality is dream; man is because he believes he is; what is man but a dream of the gods? Yet man can be that which he wishes to be; form and substance, they are but shadows. The mind, the ego, the essence of the god-dream—that is real, that is immortal. See and believe, if you would accomplish, Kull.”

The king did not fully understand; he never fully understood the enigmatical utterances of the wizard, yet they struck somewhere in his being a dim responsive chord. So day after day he sat before the mirrors of Tuzun Thune. Ever the wizard lurked behind him like a shadow." 
Tuzun Thane's mirrors reflect the 24th level abilities of the illusionist's Mangnus Opus ability;"Magnus Opus: At 24th level, illusionists reach their magnum opus, the height of their spell-casting prowess. In a day-long  ritual drawing power from the plane of shadow and combining the spells distort reality, mirage arcana, permanent image, polymorph any object, and shades, master illusionists blend what lies in their mind’s eye with that of the world around them. Magnum opus allows the illusionist to create any one object or being, or one area up to 10 ft. by 10 ft. per level, with this ritual. An illusionist can create a being up to half their level in HD." 

For Dark Sun an illustionist of 24th level or better is going to be rarer then a drink of cold water. The illusionist who is of this levei is going to be someone who would be sought by any of the Dragon Kings as a rival to be dealt with. 

No joke here an illusionist on Dark Sun must be able to cast his spells far from the purview of the authorities.A person of this level could hide in plain sight by being an entertainer whose illusions are past off as simple tricks and feats of magic trickery. Athas is a world where magick itself is a matter of life and death. 

The illusionist would have to walk the knife's edge here on Athas. Moving through various tricks & performances with fellow performers and other illusionists who are performing thier form & functions in Athas society while actually using thier abilitiies to pass on thier craft right under authorities noses. Is it possible to play an illusionist on Dark Sun?! Not only possible with Castles & Crusades but it would be highly rewarding in several ways. 

The craft of the illusionist is one of deception & disguise where reality itself seems to be molding clay and sand. Thier abilities mean that can blend in with society possibly along caravan and trade routes that take them across the face of Athas. All in All I think that the C&C illusionist with the right amount of thought & foresight on the DM's and player's part could with some preparation be a winning combination. 

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