Excerpts 03/03/2006


Tome of Magic Excerpt
By Matthew Sernett, Dave Noonan, Ari Marmell,
Robert J. Schwalb



Tome of Magic introduces three new magic subsystems for the D&D game. Any or all of these systems can easily be inserted into a campaign. Pact magic gives characters the ability to channel lost souls, harnessing their abilities to gain supernatural powers. Shadow magic draws power from the mysterious Plane of Shadow. Truename magic gives characters that learn and properly use the true name of a creature or object immense power over it. All three systems introduce new base classes and spellcasting mechanics. Also included are new feats, prestige classes, magic items, and spells.

The excerpts below include information about each of the three new systems, a couple of vestiges, the noctumancer prestige class, a weapon special ability, the Lexicon of the Evolving Mind list, and a creature. For more from the main introduction in this book, check out the February 2006 Preview.

New Weapon Special Ability: Shadow Striking

When you speak a word in the true, original language of the universe, you tap the power of creation itself -- for the ability to describe something is the ability to define it. A wielder of truename magic understands a language older and more fundamental than all others -- a "mother tongue" whose words and phrases are the building blocks of the universe.

Except perhaps the gods themselves, no one can speak this original tongue. It's possible that no one ever did speak it -- truenames might be more a set of instructions encoded into a language, rather than a means of communication. But through careful study, the masters of truename magic can understand a smattering of this fundamental language. When such masters name a thing aloud in the tongue of truenames, they can exert unparalleled control over the creature or object they name. They can command it, alter it, renew it, or destroy it simply by speaking their desire aloud. The cosmos seems to hear a truenamer's instruction and reorders the universe in accordance with the spoken words.

Truenamers engage in ceaseless study of the world around them, learning the truenames of as many creatures and objects as they can. As they advance in their studies, they can uncover the personal truenames of friends or foes, enabling still more powerful magic.

Some traditional spellcasters also dabble in truename magic. By incorporating a bit of truename speech into their spells, they can achieve targeted but powerful effects beyond the reach of traditional arcane or divine magic. The language of truenames is fiendishly difficult to pronounce, however, so such spells press the skill of their casters to the utmost.

If you want to cause the very earth to tremble when you say "thremcheumalach-tura'abachnir!" then truename magic is for you. If you want to force a babau demon to do your will simply because you know its truename is Kyethel-cramuothanpraduvashedeo, then truenames can be your path to power.

LESSER TRUENAME MAGIC

Truename magic already exists in a limited form in every D&D campaign. It appears in the form of the command and power word spells. These spells originate from the power of truenaming, using a single word to wreak mighty magical effects. Though powerful, they are merely spells and lack the reusability and flexibility of real truename magic.

THE METHODS OF TRUENAME MAGIC

Truenames encompass reality in its entirety. Everything in the world, everything that ever was, and presumably everything that ever will be has a truename. Even the most wizened truename sage doesn't know every word in the language of truenames -- or even most of them. While the grimoires of truename masters have thousands of truenames within them, truenames undoubtedly exist beyond their knowledge, truenames that await rediscovery through magical exploration and experimentation.

Truenames are an entirely oral language. Merely writing down a truename has no particular power. Only speaking a truename aloud can reorder the universe -- assuming the speaker says the name properly. The language of Truespeech is composed of hundreds of consonant sounds and thousands of delicately inflected vowels. The rhythm of the speech is likewise essential. A book might require several pages just to describe a single truename, because the speaker needs so much guidance in pronunciation.

The language of truenames is more than just a list of names. Most of the language consists of the truename equivalent of nouns. In terms of game effect, there's a truename for "orc," for "door," and for "sword." But from the truenamer's point of view, it's much more complex. There's a word for "orc berserker charging toward me," a word for "ironbound, locked wooden door with something unknown on the other side," and a word for "flame tongue longsword wielded by an ally." Even an apprentice in the magic of truenames knows hundreds of these truenames.

Truenames can also name actions, such as "vanish," "sharpen," or "destroy." When these actions are combined with the truenames that describe nouns, a truenamer can remake the universe in accordance with his wishes. Combining the truename for "destroy" with the truename for "orc" can cause harm to the orc charging toward you, for example. Combining "sharpen" (yichtho'pratanuul-khadaash) with "sword" (gremeneth'hradoshikell) can make the weapon more potent against your foes. "Vanish" (bratranajaeleithal) and "human" (hrudokkelenthé) can make an ally invisible.

In addition to truenames that describe nouns and those that describe actions, there exists a third category: personal truenames. These are the equivalent of proper names, uniquely identifying a single creature. If hrudokkelenthé is human, for example, then Thandralkru-plennevichthuul might be Bartellus the Necromancer. Most people don't know their own personal truenames, and even dedicated students of truename magic don't know more than a few personal truenames. (All truenamer students learn their own personal truenames, however.) Expert spellcasters and powerful monsters might know their own personal truenames, and they certainly try to keep others from learning their personal truenames. Knowing someone else's personal truename lets you describe that individual perfectly to the universe. When you can describe someone perfectly, you gain a better ability to affect him or her with the language of Truespeech.

TRUENAMES AT THE TABLE

If you're a player or DM with access to truename magic, you can employ the following techniques to bring your character to life at the table. Some techniques are roleplaying tips, while others just help the game flow around the table more smoothly.

When you use a truename, actually use the truename. Saying "I daze the orc with an utterance; it's DC 18," is a pretty ordinary thing -- and you picked truename magic to set yourself apart from the ordinary. Exclaiming "I disrupt thee, khedalaévaurümihauî!" is something more appropriate for a truenamer.

Go ahead and spout cool-sounding mystic gibberish, and don't be worried if you can't replicate it. Truenames by their very nature are specific, so each situation should call for a new truename. It takes a little practice to just roll a dozen weird syllables off your tongue, but once you've had a little practice, your fellow players will swear that you're speaking a language they simply don't know.

If spontaneous gibberish is problematic, spend 10 minutes before each session coming up with a brief list of syllables or nonsense words and write them down. Mix and match them in different ways during the course of the session when you make a Truespeak check. Add to your list as you gain more levels, to reflect your character learning new truename abilities or utterances, and by the time a half dozen sessions have passed, you will sound like a practiced truenamer.

Give your character a fondness for spoken language.

Characters who use truename magic have spent countless hours saying insanely complicated tongue-twisters over and over again; their very power depends on understanding and using language (even if it's the secret language of the universe).

That love of language might affect a truename-using PC's speech in other ways. You could give your character a vast vocabulary in mundane languages to mirror his large repertoire of truenames. He might pepper his speech with words in other languages such as Elven or Draconic. He could occasionally lapse into gibberish as he mentally "shifts gears" from the truename language into one used for communication.

Or you could deliberately play against type. Imagine the taciturn truenamer who uses few words because he's aware of the power they hold. But on the rare occasions when he speaks, the very world reshapes in the wake of his words.

Figure out your own personal truename. As a truenamer, you need to know this name, if for no other reason than to know if someone else has discovered it. All truenamers learn their own personal truenames as part of their final stage of apprenticeship. For other truename-using characters, it's an interesting bit of character background. Your personal truename is nothing less than the secret name the universe knows you by, so take a moment to come up with something mysterious and cool-sounding once you discover your own truename.

Consider being a multilingual translator and spokesman. When you start using truenames, your fellow players might expect your character to have a facility for language in other ways. While this isn't necessarily the case, you can meet their expectations by learning a number of languages with either the Speak Language skill or spells such as tongues. Characters who use truenames also find themselves thrust into the role of party spokesperson as well: "Let's let the guy with the powerful words do the talking for us." Skills such as Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive -- to say nothing of your own willingness to banter with NPCs -- will go a long way toward making such interactions fun and effective.

Know how object saving throws work. They don't get much play in the average D&D game, but they're an important part of truename magic, especially if you are a truenamer who has begun to delve into the Lexicon of the Crafted Tool. Whether you're the player of a truenamer or the DM who describes the result of utterances on objects, make sure you understand the object saving throw rules on page 166 of the Player's Handbook.

After a few sessions, you will know those rules like the back of your hand. After that, it's just a matter of the DM making sure she knows what the caster level is of a magic item and whether 2 + 1/2 its caster level is better than the saving throw bonus of the creature holding the item.

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