Wyrdwegas, or Magic

One of the chief concerns of a fantasy-adjacent TTRPG is magic. In Weardcynn, I am aiming for a magic that is grounded in several senses. One is the pagan/animist sense, in which the magic user (generally termed in my game as Wyrdwyrhtas, or literally Fate Workers) persuades and manipulates the spirits that inhabit all things into performing tasks. They do this by using Wyrdwegas (literally Fate Ways). There are limits to what can be achieved, and all magic costs, but the ultimate source of it is the vast well of animating spirits that comprise the world. These spirits are often mercurial and uncooperative, so must be tricked or captured in various ways, but they are ubiquitous, representing the divisions within divisions that reflect and refract through all creation.

I settled on “wyrd” as the root of the game's magic because from a pronunciation perspective it overlaps with “weird”, and weird is a second sense in which the magic system is grounded. Magic in Weardcynn is intended to be deeply weird, and at times uncomfortable. In many cases it is also quite visceral, relying on the gross, the body horror, and the uncanny. For example, one wyrdweg (spell) that grants someone the ability to speak another language is called “Tungan” (tongues). It relies on the use of the tongue of a creature that had a language your character might have been able to speak, and it requires that the user place a sliver of the tongue in their mouth. I expect this to turn plenty of potential players off, and that's fine. Not every game is for ever player.

A third sense of grounding follows from the previous two, and this involves the use of toxic, psychoactive, and magically potent substances derived from plants, mushrooms, minerals, and animal parts. These are products of the earth itself, emanations from other creative forces and spirits, which in turn makes this a near-literal grounding. A typical wyrdweg may involve a combination of herbs, animal parts, and symbols, in addition to any words or gestures that might accompany the casting.

A fourth sense of grounding comes from things like the casting time, the duration of effects, the total scope of effects, and so on. In many cases, a wyrdweg is not a thing that can be worked quickly, but at the same time, some of the slowest wyrdwegas also make something you can use later (though your inventory space will limit how many such things you can carry). So you can't always cast wyrdwegas in combat, but you might still be able to benefit from them if you can prepare sufficiently. For those that can be worked quickly, there will be other tradeoffs, since hasty magic is less reliable and/or less powerful, in terms of duration and scope of effect. And finally, what can be done with magic, while nominally powerful, is still constrained by how much total effort you as a caster can put into it. Since you are drawing from a pool of points that have specific circumstances under which they replenish, this effort becomes the currency that provides scarcity for your magic.

There are additional considerations, but these are the factors that ground the magic in the world and place it within the realm of weird but powerful, channeling the earth to perform miracles.

Now I want to turn attention to a quick rundown of examples of wyrdwegas I have collected so far, with a brief description of the rituals involved in casting them.

  1. Dead-spræc: This allows the caster to speak with the dead. As long as the caster holds the head (or at least skull) of a creature that was able to speak a language, and as long as that language is something the caster could reasonably have learned to speak (i.e., it has to be a human language or a Weardcynn language, but can't be, e.g., the language of wolves), the spell will work. In other respects, this works as similar spells in other games: namely limited questions (3) and a minimum time between castings on the same skull (a year and a day). Casting this wyrdweg requires placing a sprig of wormwood (or a substance with similar properties) in the mouth of the deceased, then commanding the dead to rise and speak.
  2. Tungan: This aforementioned wyrdweg is like similarly named spells in other games. To prepare the sliver of tongue, the caster must dry out the sliver in wood smoke that includes willow bark or a substance with similar magical properties. The jerky-like tongue sliver can be used once and lasts for an hour, but it can be prepared ahead of time and remain potent for seven days.
  3. Sweord-han: By infusing dried hawkweed stems, leaves, and flowers in hot water, a wyrdwyrhta can create a magical substance that can sharpen edged weapons such as swords and knives. The substance can be prepared ahead of time, but must be applied within 24 hours, after which it loses its potency. The substance is applied by painting it on the blade of the edged weapon. Each infusion is enough to coat one edged weapon.
  4. Fel-gearcian: A skilled wyrdwyrhta can learn from the huntan the art of skin preparation, by which any slain creature's skin can be made into a tool of transformation. This is primarily a tradition passed among the huntan, and it allows them to transform themselves into the animal whose skin has been prepared this way. The skin can be reused unless it is destroyed in combat or takes damage in some other way, but takes time to put on and remove. A common means of preparation includes mixing ground dogwood blossoms, leaves, and twigs with salt to make a magically activated curing agent. Other animals might use different herbs to coax the spirit back into the skin. Catnip, for instance, is common for coaxing big cat spirits into the prepared skins, but is also useful for other spirits.
  5. Wind-nama: By casting a handful of maple seed pods into the air, a wyrdwyrhta can learn the name of a local wind spirit, which can thus be bound and commanded to perform tasks according to the effort the wyrdwyrhta spends to achieve the effect. The effect must be something bursts of air or wind can normally achieve. Keeping a wind spirit on a leash is costly, however, and the spirit will take any opportunity to escape.

These are indicative of the kinds of spells you'll find in Weardcynn. They are still in development along with everything else, of course, but they form a representative selection of how I'm envisioning magic to work in my game. Additionally, the language here is not firmly set, but a more thorough review of terms will follow development. I hope to have about 100 spells described, along with rules for how to come up with new spells, inspirations for effects based on the herb references I'm using, etc.

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