Friday, May 11, 2018

5th Edition and the Darkest Arts of a new arcane tradition

Art by: Brian Lee
From: Tale of the Wizard's Eye


The word conjures dark imagery, a foreboding sense of wrongness, and is reviled for the evil of its practices.

We typically see much less of the evil and vileness in play.  So what do you do when you want your dark arts to be, well, DARK?  The arcane tradition of 'necromancer' just didn't strike me as foreboding.

It occurred to me that I had rarely seen someone role play a character in a truly evil way.  Sure, people had played evil characters, and those characters had done some things that may be seen as evil, but usually the action was done "because I'm evil".   Where then is the drive to forego societal norms in a quest for power?  What drives the character to undertake horrific tasks?  What makes a character pursue evil?

These questions are a bit dark, but stick with me.

There have been MANY books about evil and how to play through them.  Unfortunately, many of those books simply provide a litany of evil acts a character may do "because they're evil" or "because they enjoy it".  That's not much help in determining character motivation.

To my thinking there is a significant difference in doing something because you're truly evil and the ends justify the means; and doing something just because the act is evil and you're playing a jerk.  Think about that for a moment. 

I was thinking along these lines when I began developing Whispers of Persephone.   I wanted to create an arcane tradition that pursued power through genuinely evil practice.  A tradition that inspired fear as others wondered if they would fall prey to these darkest of wizards.

Art from: Tale of the Wizard's Eye
Artist: Rebecca Coulthart

Not being particularly evil myself (at least, I don't think I am) I had to ask myself the age old question: "what drives people to commit evil acts".   I eventually concluded that each person would have their own reasons, but by and large it often comes down to a quest for power.  As a quest for personal power is often a big driving force in a wizard's mentality, I pursued that line of thought.

Death and Magic 

Let's face it, we're all going to die someday.  That said, we hold this fantastic survival instinct that usually makes us fearful of dying ourselves, in spite of its inevitability.  To that end, death is scary to people (usually) and people who deal in death are likewise scary.   

Enter the magician:  the practice of magic has long been feared.  The two together bring us the modern concept of the necromancer.  Our present concept of the necromancer is relatively new, and perpetuated by novels and film.  Where once the necromancer consorted with the spirits of the dead to learn of things (much like the modern medium), now they are dark sorcerers who create monsters to torment the living.   With all that going for them, necromancers should be frightening!

So I made the new tradition frightening.  I burdened it's pursuit with a need for death.  I researched old curses that people feared in the past (some of it was really weird, seriously).  I thought about the ancient magical rites of the Aztecs and those that were ascribed to cultists of the middle ages.  I looked to the ancient writings of Homer and considered the Underworld, the River Styx, Charon, Hades, and the long list of vile magicians and sorceresses the Greeks and Romans named in their writings.

In truth, I think Whispers of Persephone could easily be twice the size I'm creating it as.  There is just so much to draw from! 

Art by Brian Lee
From: Tale of the Wizard's Eye

I'm going to be putting together a play test document for some of the material from Whispers of Persephone and sending it out to my play testers soon.  It won't have any of the art yet, as I'll have to KickStarter  the funding for it.  But it will have a ton of material, and some seriously dark stuff to haunt their games.  New spells, rituals, rules for blood sacrifices, feats, alchemicals, potions, poisons and new magical items are already designed and ready to get shaken down in the play tests.

What horrors will they unleash in their games?  

We'll soon see!

Keep the dark arts DARK and remember that there is a big difference between being EVIL and just being a jerk!

Look for Whispers of Persephone to come to KickStarter later this year.
I use KickStarter to fund the fantastic original art for the books I release.

All art for Whispers of Persephone will be done in full color by the incredible
  Christian Martinez

Art by Christian Martinez
From: Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow

Art used in this entry is from Tale of the Wizard's Eye, my first self-published adventure, and Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow.  You can find them on


As you all know, I'm a big believer in building community and helping to spread the word for people who are creative, innovative people.  Well, Bull could use some help.  

Check out his GoFundMe for details:
GoFundMe Screen Capture (as the html embed didn't work)

Thank you for joining me once again as I continue our adventure in writing, self-publishing and game design.

Do remember that the KickStarter campaign for The Steel Road is launching in just a couple of weeks.  Follow my blog for the announcement or you can follow me on KickStarter!

I hope you'll join me next time.

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