Whitehack: The Bone Codex, Chapter 1 of 3

The Nine Spells of the Archmages

There were three great Archmages that historians remember: Ancev of the Seeing-Hand, Mordiggian the Wanderer and Wraith-friend Phariom.

After the feuds, wizarding wars and zealot-fueled purges, only 3 spells are widely known to have survived from each of them. New spells are sometimes written but they are often hidden away to give the spell-caster an edge when dealing with other sorcerers, wizards, warlocks, witches, magic-users, mages, Archmages, witch-hunters, lich’s and adepts. These 9 spells are commonly used to teach apprentices the basics of magic-use and are put into journeyman mages’ spell-books due to their proven utility. The spells below are all taken from a copy of Pharium’s Bone Codex, which had all nine spells within.

The spell-book was from the corpse of a failed apprentice, whose margin notes appear under each spell description in italics. The apprentice’s name is lost to time.

The 9 known common spells:

  • Ancev’s Spectral Fist
  • Eye of Ancev
  • Wizard’s Mouth
  • Prismatic Missiles
  • Mordiggian’s Rainbow Door
  • True Vision
  • Wraith’s Kiss
  • Pharion’s Zombie Horde
  • Phariom’s Pain

From the Ancev’s Arcane Axe Tome

Ancev’s Spectral Fist: Ancev called upon a spectral hand to do his bidding after a henchman betrayed her in an hour of need [the fist can can lift up to 100 pounds her hit point spent or be used as a weapon, doing 1d6 damage per 1 hit point spent in its casting. The fist lasts for 3d6 minutes unless it is used as a weapon, which uses up its arcane power and causes it to disappear after the damage is dealt].

Ancev was said to have chopped off one of his hands in order to finish this spell. Among unseasoned casters, the hand is said to strongly resemble Ancev’s lost hand until they grow in their power and make the spell their own. Some bend the spell to make it able to manipulate fine objects from a distance or even to carry around an object upon which the Eye of Ancev is cast to see around corners or into dangerous spots. 

[Time to cast: 1 Round]

Eye of Ancev: The Body-Mage was fond of inscribing the pictogram of an eye on a surface, so that she could look through this eye as if it was her own, they need only cover up one of their eyes with a pinch of whatever material the surface where the eye is drawn is made of [The eye will see for 1d6 hours per hit point spent].

Just as Ancev was said to have sacrificed a hand to finish his first spell, he took out his own eye to gain the wisdom to finish this one. Many wizards and sorcerers agree that this sacrifice was an unnecessary act.

[Time to cast: 3d6 rounds]

Wizard’s Mouth: By casting this spell and whispering the words to be spoken upon an inanimate object, Ancev would cause an arcane mouth to form, saying a word or phrase when a prescribed event occurs such as someone walking over a spot, saying something specific, taking an action [the mouth will say one word per hit point spent for one month per level].

Arcane scholars hypothesize that this spell was not created by Ancev but was in his spellbook from his master, whose name is lost. Ancev once cast it on a rock and cast the rock into a deep pit, having it yell out a sailor’s cuss should the rock come across any dangerous beasts.

[Time to cast: 3d6 rounds]

From Mordiggian’s Spectrum Codex

Prismatic Missiles: Mordiggian could fling darts that glowed with fantastic colors due to their otherworldly radiations and powers [spend 1 hit-point for 1d6-1 missiles that cause 2 points of damage].

This was Mordiggian’s first spell and it is said that he regrets ever having shared it, feeling responsible for the blood-shed it has caused. He should instead consider how many wizard’s lives he has saved.

[Time to cast: Goes off at the end of the round, the caster automatically goes last in the initiative order with bending the spell.]

Mordiggian’s Rainbow Door: The Wanderer used this spell to create a shimmering doorway that he often placed over his laboratory’s portal in order to lock it or open it as per the his wishes or he would often cast it against a wall, allowing the him to walk through walls (5 feet of solid stone per level to the other side).

Mordiggian had further uses of the spell, putting his rainbow doors over certain keystones that allowed him and his companions to travel great distances in only a few steps. The art of making these keystones is lost but it is said some still remain in the hidden crypts, abandoned wizard’s towers and lost barrows in and around ancient cities and villages or in the untamed, unmapped parts of the world.

He wrote extensive cautions about using this spell underground, cautioning his apprentices, not wanting them to run into a Rainbow Door in an act of desperation and become buried alive or phased into solid stone.

[Time to cast: 3d6 rounds]

True Vision: Mordiggian used this spell to see magical auras, otherworldly beings and hidden ghosts (the vision lasts for 1d6 rounds per level).

Mordiggian was obsessed with the limits of mortal vision and wrote this spell while seeking colors that were not visible to his eyes.

[Time to cast: 1d6 rounds]

From Phariom’s Bone Codex

Wraith’s Kiss: Phariom would inhale deeply of the air exhaled by her target and and take their life force [1d6 damage to the target, with half of this going to the caster as hit points]. She cautioned against taking in more of someone else’s life than you have [if you take in more hit points than your max number of hit points, you must make a saving throw or begin to blend your life with the life of your target] and suggested that casting this spell on otherworldly creatures was an especially dangerous way of losing one’s humanity.

A librarian who is said to have a copy of Phariom’s own spellbook wrote a treatise on this spell, saying that it is the spell that led to the Arch-Mage’s eventual true demise. Several apprentices become otherworldly beings in their own right through the use and mis-use of this spell.

[Time to cast: 1 round]

Pharion’s Zombie Horde: She raised zombies by putting a piece of currency in their mouth and and cutting her sigil into their bodies. Pharion’s zombies last until they decompose and fall apart or are destroyed by violence or magic [the zombies last until the next dawn, when the caster has to make a save, failure meaning they either fall to dust or fall out of control of the caster]. Anyone killed by the zombies can be raised without any [hit point] cost but the ritual must still be enacted. Zombies can only follow simple one word commands, and when subtlety is called for they err on the side of bloodshed and flesh-eating.

[Common zombie upgrades: feral, independent, noxious, independent limbs, skeleton]

Pharion studied the ancient necromancers, attempting to side-step the hubris common to the Styx Art. The third time the world thought Pharion was dead was when she led 300 zombies against a rival chaos duke and lost control of the undead horde on the sunrise after the battle.

[Time to cast: 1d6 round per body + 1 rounds for any upgrades]

Phariom’s Pain: By saying the target’s True Name, Phariom could inflict terrible pain, usually taken from a painful moment in their life, amplified by arcane energies [save or writhe in pain for 1 round for every point of Wisdom bonus of the caster].

Phariom claimed she invented the spell to deal with otherworldly beasts sent to kill her during wizarding feuds but there are documented cases of her casting this spell against bandits on the road and thieves in her tower-crypt.

[Time to cast: Goes off at the end of the round, the caster automatically goes last in the initiative order with bending the spell.]

Spell-casting for the Wise and unWise

The Wise begin with one of the Archmage’s 3 spells and one other spell from another tome, randomly determined.

Casting a spell as described above costs 1 hit point. The Wise may bend a spell’s effect in subtle ways at the cost of an extra 1 hit point. Making the spell permanent, as will be covered later under Enchantments, is done by spending a point of Constitution.

The Wise are best at magic, though the Strong and the Deft may play at it when they belong to a group who have taught them a touch of the Arcane Arts. The unWise have the following casting limitations: casting a spell takes double-the amount of time listed in the duration and costs double the normal hit-point expenditure. They may not bend the spell in any way. They start with 0 spells and must acquire them through adventure.

For every two arcane/spell-casting groups the unWise belongs to, they may get rid of one unWise casting limitation: double casting time, double hit point expenditure, no bending.

Soon to Come:

Chapter 2: Summoning

Chapter 3: Enchantments

9 thoughts on “Whitehack: The Bone Codex, Chapter 1 of 3

  1. I’m digging these spells… The D&D hack I’m doing (“The Reclaimers”) has it’s zombie spell work like this – undead desire to harm living, sentient beings. The longer they go without inflicting harm, the more rolls to break free of the commands occur.

  2. *Very* nice and full of great flavor for people who want to put written spells back in Whitehack’s magic system! I love it that it also gives the contours of a setting!

    If I may suggest something technical, it would be to make the HP costs a bit higher, like 3 HP instead. That would allow for using rare (and potentially addictive) ingredients to lower the HP cost, or some other means of doing the same thing—like risking extra time to cast the spell through a small ritual. HP or risks or rare resources can be a very interesting choice for a player. It often spawns new adventure ideas too.

    Anyway—great job! I’m looking forward to the following chapters!

    • Those are great suggestions.

      One of the things I like about the HP-based magic is *exactly* the desire to let the PCs/Players muck around with it for resource management.

      Ideas I’ve thought of are deals with supernatural creatures (gods, demons) that can provide an additional side pool of hit points (spells eat into actual HP once the pool is gone); sacrificing others for HP for dark, ritual magic; sacrificing Stat points in lieu of HP; spending more HP for quicker casting…

      Nothing specific yet. My copy of Whitehack is still winging my way toward me. But it seems like the magic system is waiting to be used to build up evocative, setting specific magic that will also help create tense moments and additional fictional content and adventures.

      • Those are very nice ideas! Some can be done with the regular rules, some are easily added.

        I especially like the side pool suggestion! It sounds a bit like Whitehack’s rules for cursed magic objects: You never know when you’ve fully paid what you “owe” (HP-wise) for using the object. Cursed object bleed HP, so you might lose additional points days after a use.

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