Monday, January 22, 2018
Writing for the Dark Arts: Whispers of Persephone
As I worked on the design for Whispers of Persephone I found myself wandering down dark paths of thought.
What would motivate people to practice necromancy? What reasons would they cling to in order to justify horrific acts? What prize are they seeking at the expense of their humanity or even to jeopardize their immortal soul? These questions circulated in my mind as I sought to put together a book that did justice to the dark arts of fantasy and myth.
For role-players it can be fun to be the bad guy, to practice arts few dare to embrace, and to do cool but icky things. It makes your character stand out, affects the game experience, and can take your campaign into dark, strange, and wondrous territory. Does your character practice the darkest arts because of an obsession or fear of death and dying? Is the lure of power and having people fear your character what brought the interest in the necromantic arts to the fore? Find your motivation, and it will help you to role-play your actions.
Lets start this discussion with one of the main premises of the book: Necromancy is a dark art of magic.
In many historic views on necromancy, the magics practiced were usually aimed at contacting and communicating with the dead. This was seen as a means of garnering secrets, obtaining knowledge, and foretelling the future. In my experience it has been very rare for magician characters to practice necromancy in this manner. I have added elements to the practice of Stygian Necromancy to allow for such.
Legends, literature, and movies have brought dark stories of horrific practices of the necromantic arts to our awareness. Rituals and spells of necromancy should possess those horrific traits associated with the darkest of arts. Whether you are animating the dead as servants, or sacrificing the innocent to gain forbidden knowledge, the practices of necromancy should be reprehensible.
I felt that if I wanted to produce a book about necromancy, that people would want to use, and that wouldn't just be disgusting flavor text, I would have to balance these aspects into carefully crafted concept. I had to re-create the mystique, the horrific intent, and dreaded powers of the necromancer. It has been a challenge to say the least.
The craft, rituals, and spells of Necromancy:
Many of the existing, open game license spells for necromancy are definitely evil. Bringing new game play features requires creating things that aren't covered in the existing rules, or making existing effects thematically appropriate to the practice of necromancy. By way of example, using necromancy to gleam knowledge skirts closely upon many divination practices. Summoning the ghosts of the long dead appears to borrow heavily from conjuration and summoning. Transformation into the form of a person who is now dead would seemingly be the province of alteration and transformation magics. Therefore it is the underlying method of the magic that must determine its nature. So when using necromancy to garner knowledge, you may be pouring the memory from the mind of a dying victim. When you summon a ghost you may use trappings of consequence to that shade and make offerings of blood. For tranformations into the form of another person, you may utilize the blood of that person in the spell of transformation.
Along with the thematic elements of effects one should be mindful of the game balance. Necromancers should NOT be as well versed in all applications of magic just because you can formulate trappings for their processes. The level of difficulty for practices of necromancy should be varied based upon the difficulty of the action relative to its place in the overall game mechanic. A spell that makes a skull explode as a form of necromantic bomb, should not be as effective as fireball and should not be of the same level. Finding a balance in design is critical as it is the goal for people to actually play the necromancers from Whispers of Persephone. Crafting rituals and spells that make sense, that don't break game play, and that have the eerie and evil components make these dark arts DARK and playable.
Did you ever want to play a specialist wizard and get more out of it than paying a little less to copy spells into your spell book? I know I have.
Stygian Necromancy is designed to be playable, potent, darkly evil, and of use both as a playable pursuit of magic and as a practice in use by npcs (game masters I hope you love these bad guys!)
Blood rites, summoning of the dead, mind searing incantations, and spells of the foulest sorts are incorporated into this form of magic specialization. Stygian Necromancy forces characters to perform evil acts as they ascend to power. It presents reasons for having minions, for raising the dead, for blood sacrifices, and for the evil which men do in the pursuit of power.
The trappings of the arcane arts are an important part of the narrative. A wizard's wand or staff is iconic. So too must those trappings of the necromancer be so. Its time to put the magic back into magical items, and for necromantic paraphernalia those items must be interesting and do icky things. Look for the sacrificial daggers of the necromancers to be a feature readily associated with the practitioners of Stygian Necromancy. Canopic jars, bottles of blood, and pieces of the anatomy of their victims can find interesting uses at the hands of these characters.
I'll be releasing little tidbits about this project over the next few months. Look for the KickStarter campaign announcement to be made on the Whispers of Persephone page. I will also be providing glimpses into the art going into this book on that page once it becomes available.
So gather your minions, and summon your allies, for darkness is rising with the restless dead. Necromancers, claim your power.
Thank you for joining me on my adventure into writing and self-publishing. I hope you'll join me next time as the journey continues.
*If you have questions please comment below.
Copyright Notice: Whispers of Persephone is copyright 2018 by W.S. Quinton
This blog entry is made as an introduction to the subject matter of that book, and no rights to the copyright of Whispers of Persephone are conveyed, implied, or otherwise transferred or commuted to any other person or entity.