A whole new system awaits you in the Magic of Incarnum D&D supplement. With this book, player characters can meld incarnum -- the power of souls living, dead, and unborn -- into magic items and even their own bodies, granting them special attacks, defenses, and other abilities (much as magic items and spells do). Incarnum can be shaped and reshaped into new forms, giving characters tremendous versatility in the dungeon and on any battlefield. This book also features new classes, prestige classes, feats, and other options for characters wishing to explore the secrets of incarnum, as well as rules and advice for including incarnum in a D&D campaign. The excerpts below include information on a new race called dusklings, the totemist class, the lammasu mantle, sphinx claws, the spell conjure midnight construct, and monster statistics for necrocarnum zombies.
"Well?" Tordek demanded in a loud whisper. "What did you see?"
Lidda pulled some briars from her cloak as she considered her answer. Impatient, Tordek drummed his fingers on his waraxe as Ragnara leaned closer to hear. "Well," the halfling said, "it looks a bit like the asylum decided to relocate. Only there's no walls or doors and no healers. Just a bunch of crazies wandering around the ruins."
"Crazies?" Tordek spluttered.
"Are they armed?" Ragnara asked.
"I didn't see weapons, but I did see two of them fighting each other -- tooth and nail, you might say." Lidda smiled sardonically, but her voice dropped to a whisper as she heard a rustle in the nearby woods. "Shh! Someone's out there!"
"Hold your fire, strangers," came a voice from the brush, stern and quiet. "I offer aid against the enemies you have chosen." A moment later, a man strode into the clearing -- a man such as the three companions had never before seen. He was clad in full plate formed of a metal none of them could name. It was rich gold in hue, and the greatsword he carried over his shoulder was the same color. It was his eyes, however, that caught their attention, glowing with a faint blue light in the gathering dark.
"Who are you, man?" Tordek demanded. "And what do you propose to do about those lunatics?"
"I am Arstor, pentifex monolith and guardian of the ancient temple that lies yonder." The man gestured in the direction of the ruins Lidda had scouted. "Those that infest the temple are not lunatics; they are the lost."
"The lost?" Ragnara's voice betrayed her keen interest.
"Their spirits have been corrupted by stray wisps of incarnum that bonded with powerful emotions of hatred, anger, or despair. They are now wholly given over to those destructive passions, and must be exterminated before their corruption spreads."
"Incarnum?" Tordek interrupted. "What in the Nine Hells is incarnum?"
This book came about as an attempt to do something brand new, something the vast multiverse of Dungeons & Dragons had never seen before. We set out to create an entirely original idea -- not just interesting twists on existing mechanics and familiar themes, but a whole new system to add new landscapes and horizons into an existing D&D game.
Like the Expanded Psionics Handbook, this book presents a new system that is similar to magic but different, a novel way of looking at characters who deal with the supernatural. The heart of this system is the substance called incarnum.
Chapter 4: Soulmelds presents the full rules system for the use of incarnum; this introduction is intended to introduce the core concepts used throughout the book.
Incarnum is an amorphous magical substance made up of the soul energies of all sentient creatures -- living, dead, and, it is theorized, those even not yet born.
In its pure form, incarnum resembles a radiant mist, deep blue in color. Those trained or gifted in manipulating incarnum can shape it into physical objects (called soulmelds) or simply use it to imbue themselves with power.
Shaping incarnum has no ill effect on the soul energy used. Incarnum is not consumed when it is manipulated by a meldshaper or other character -- it is merely "borrowed" from the nigh-infinite supply in the multiverse.
That said, the wielders of incarnum recognize that the substance is more than mere magic. It is, very literally, the essence of all creatures. Talented wielders of incarnum learn to harness specific qualities of incarnum (and by extension, properties of the souls tapped for this power), including particular alignments, insights, experiences, and the like. In fact, most wielders of incarnum have strong moral and ethical outlooks inextricably linked to their use of the substance.
A soulmeld is a semipermanent magical effect crafted from raw incarnum. Soulmelds are "worn" much like magic items. Once shaped (a daily process much like prepping spells), a soulmeld lasts as long as its creator wants it to.
The characters who make use of the options in this book -- new classes, prestige classes, feats, and other options -- gain the ability to shape incarnum into magical objects called soulmelds. Characters who can shape soulmelds are called meldshapers.
A soulmeld somewhat resembles a magic item or a spell effect in physical form. It is the physical embodiment of incarnum, linked to the meldshaper's body and worn almost like a physical item. Shaping incarnum into soulmelds requires time and effort, much like a wizard preparing spells. Unlike spells, though, soulmelds generally last until the meldshaper decides to unshape them, withdrawing the incarnum for future use.
Essentia is a character's personal store of incarnum. Most characters can't access this pool of energy, though certain classes and feats open up this potential. Essentia can be invested into soulmelds in order to enhance their effects. Essentia can be reinvested each round to augment soulmeld and other effects as the meldshaper wishes.
Essentia is the substance of a character's personal soul energy. Everybody has it, but only some characters learn to manipulate it to enhance magical effects. Meldshapers, for instance, can invest it into soulmelds to make them more powerful. Every soulmeld can be enhanced by investing essentia into it, in much the same way as spells improve with higher caster levels. Unlike caster level, a soulmeld's invested essentia is not a fixed number; it can shift up or down as the meldshaper desires. The more powerful the character, the more essentia he can invest into his soulmelds and thus the more powerful they can become.
In addition to its use in soulmelds, essentia can sometimes be invested into feats, class features, and other abilities. Chapter 3: Character Options presents a new type of feat, the incarnum feat, which grants abilities that scale up with invested essentia. Chapter 5: Magic introduces spells and magic items that have similar scaling effects. Any character, regardless of whether he can shape soulmelds, can gain access to his personal pool of essentia by the selection of the proper feat or other option.
Chakras are the body's ten centers of power: crown, feet, hands, arms, brow, shoulders, throat, waist, heart, and soul.
Similar to and closely linked with ten of the magic item spaces on the body described in the Dungeon Master's Guide, the ten chakras represent locations on the body where a meldshaper can place a soulmeld. Meldshapers have access to all their chakras for the purpose of shaping Soulmelds to occupy them.
A soulmeld can be bound to a chakra in order to gain a secondary (and often more potent) effect from it. Doing so cuts off the corresponding body slot from magic item use -- binding a soulmeld to your feet chakra means you can't wear magic boots, for example.
A skilled meldshaper can bind some of his soulmelds to chakras to gain new powers from those soulmelds. When a meldshaper binds a meld to a chakra, it becomes supernaturally tied or affixed to that body location. As a side effect of the chakra bind, the meldshaper loses the ability to benefit from a magic item occupying the body slot associated with that chakra.
A meldshaper can shape soulmelds to occupy any of his chakras even at 1st level. However, the chakras are defined by a relative level of power or difficulty for the purposes of binding soulmelds to them. As a meldshaper increases in level, he learns to bind soulmelds first to his least chakras (crown, feet, and hands), then lesser (arms, brow, and shoulders), then greater (throat and waist), and eventually to his heart and soul chakras.
A meldshaper can bind soulmelds only to a limited number of his chakras, but that number increases as he gains levels. Each soulmeld description indicates which chakra or chakras it can be bound to, and the effects of binding it to each chakra.
In general, binding a soulmeld to a chakra produces an effect similar to that granted by a magic item worn on the corresponding body slot. For example, binding a soulmeld to the throat chakra often grants the meldshaper abilities related to protection or discernment, just as a magic amulet or scarab usually does. Other thematic ties link the powers of soulmelds to their chakra binds. A soulmeld bound to the throat chakra might also grant the meldshaper a breath weapon or some ability related to speech, since these abilities are symbolically connected to the throat. See the Behind the Curtain sidebar entitled Body Slot Affinities on page 288 of the Dungeon Master's Guide for more about the abilities granted by magic items that occupy different body slots.
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