Project Arcana: Applied Magic – Adding the New Schools to Your 5e Campaign


One of the initial drivers of Project Arcana – other than the frothing rage caused by Mirage Arcane – was the desire to be able to do more with the magic system. As we finished up Phase 1, we realized that in a lot of ways, casting magic is like martial arts. There are only so many ways you can manipulate the human body, so different schools and styles rearrange the same basic stuff into different sets of strikes, techniques, and katas. Similarly, there are only so many ways the human mind and spirit can manipulate magical energies. The Schools and their Forms establish a basis for understanding and manipulating magic to affect reality, but that understanding varies for each caster. This is why casters find they have an affinity for a particular school of magic or configuration of the schools: It’s a different way to discipline the mind to manipulate the energies of magic.

Two Magical Configurations

To show how this works, LP is kicking out two of an infinite series of possible configurations. Again, these configurations are an interpretation of magic; a way to organize it so that it makes sense to the caster and, so organized, can aid in understanding, use, and mastery.

The Wheel of Ipicofeus

The Wheel is a configuration of the Schools and their Forms into complimentary types. No magical School is truly compatible with any other (otherwise there would be only one school), but some Schools and Forms are more compatible than others. For instance Mentus, which manipulates the mind, and Verum, which expands it; or Vitae, which deals with the spiritual energy and life, and Mutae, which alters the very nature of living things. This configuration is preferred by academics and studious scholars of magic.

For magical traditions which rely upon regularity and steadiness, a caster’s available spells might include two or three adjacent schools. For those traditions that are not as constrained, or are random, a caster might study schools that are not adjacent.

The Decryo Arrangement

The Decryo Arrangement presents the forces of magic in a state of dynamic tension, forever balancing opposing facets of existence: Excitus-Mutae (Energy/Matter), Euntus-Verum (Space/Time), Vitae-Mentus (Body/Mind). With this arrangement, the Schools are generally accessed in their pure state, and multi-disciplinary magic is not common. Because it draws a hard line between schools, the arrangement of the Forms isn’t important in Decryo Arrangement. Decryo is preferred by casters and Societies whose magic is gained through means other than study, but it is by no means exclusive to them.

Certain Societies of casters use the Triadyne subsets of the Decryo Arrangement: Excitus-Mentus-Verum and Euntus-Mutae-Vitae. This prevents collapse of the Arrangement by shifting the dynamic tension, and the Triads associate in two zones: Notatus (Excitus-Mentus-Verum) and Physicus (Euntus-Mutae-Vitae). The use of the Triadyne subsets allows latitude for casters seeking larger spell sets.

Integrating the Wheel of Ipicofeus and the Decryo Arrangement with 5e

The caster classes in 5e are certainly more guided than the old 1e magic user class, which left pretty much everything up to the player, and they create casters that are far more useful at low levels than they used to be. In 1e up to level 4, Schmendork the Magician was good for a couple of Magic Missiles, and would then hide behind a table, throw flasks of oil, and hope nothing bigger than a kobold noticed he was there.

But, with the new caster classes come new considerations, and integrating an updated magic system won’t be as easy as it was when the only option was a ‘magic user’, who had wide open playing field.

So, how can the current casters use these setups?

First, it’s important to remember that the only thing changing is the list of available spells from which the caster can choose. Nothing else about the class changes. Period. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Project Arcana is not about altering the existing classes. That being said, altering the lists of spells available to the classes can fundamentally change how they play and has the potential to unbalance the character. It will be up to the DM and players to make sure the resulting characters are neither too strong, nor too weak.

NOTE: The spell lists provided by PA arrangements include all spells in the school/form, regardless of prior assignment.  For example, this means that a Wizard with access to Vitae can absolutely cast Cure Wounds.

(Disclaimer: Nobody has tried this out yet, and Matthew doesn’t think it will work.)

Sorcerers

Sorcerer magic is innate and its expression is unpredictable. Therefore, regardless of the configuration for which they find affinity, their magically conflicted nature will always emerge. Sorcerers using the Wheel of Ipicofeus will have a primary school based on the life event or circumstance that grants their magic, and four additional forms selected at random from the other schools. These (plus Neutrum) will be their spell list.

Sorcerers with an affinity for the Decryo Arrangement find that, like the Ipicofeus, their primary school is based on the source of their magic. But with the Decryo, the Sorcerer is drawn to the school opposite his own. For example: Sorcerers with an energy dragon ancestry would find themselves drawn to Excitus (Blue, Brass, Bronze, Gold, Red, Silver), and those with a chemical dragon ancestry to Mutae (Black, Copper, Green). They will have that primary school and the Decryo opposite school (plus Neutrum) for their spell lists.

Warlocks

We believe that Warlocks, with their magical patron and their very limited, finely tuned spell list, will be the most difficult caster class into which to work the Project Arcana Schools. That being said, we’re going to take a stab at it.

When a Warlock picks his patron at Level 1, instead of a commitment to either of the arrangements above, the patron grants three forms from any Schools (plus Neutrum), and these comprise the warlock’s spell list.

Here are suggested forms for the patrons mentioned in the 5e OGL:

  • The Fiend: Necromancy (Vitae), Heat (Excitus), Summons (Euntus)
  • The Archfey: Enchantment (Mentus), Illusion (Mentus), Senses (Verum)
  • The Old One: Interference (Mentus), Interplanar (Euntus), Knowledge (Verum)

There is no reason, of course, that the DM and the player can’t work together to tweak these for a specific warlock character. Maybe some fiends are more inclined toward power, or spirituality. This is an excellent opportunity to customize a Warlock and make their backstory matter.

Wizards

Wizards are all about options, their Arcane Tradition being the most important here. The choice of Arcane Tradition determines which spells a wizard will have available. But, Arcane Tradition is selected at level 2, which means the wizard’s spell list is undetermined until then. LP recommends two options for 1st level wizards using PA magic:

  • Wizards choose an Arcane Tradition at level 1, establishing the available spells immediately.
  • Wizards use cantrips and spells from any school until choosing an Arcane Tradition at level 2.

The first option is easy, but changes a rule of the class; even though it is a rule that only determines their spell list at this point. The second option leaves some room for abuse by multiclassing characters, but doesn’t change any class rules.

Wizards using the Wheel of Ipicofeus will choose a primary school as their Arcane Tradition. They will also have the two schools adjacent to the primary school (plus Neutrum) to comprise their spell list. Wizards using the Decryo Arrangement will choose a primary school as their Arcane Tradition, and that school and the other two schools in the Triadyne (plus Neutrum) will comprise their spell list.

Wizards may also choose Neutrum as their Arcane Tradition, in which case they may choose to study any three schools for their spell list.

What’s Next?

We’re not done yet with Project Arcana, but this is the end of the OGL stuff. Then next piece will include an additional organization of the Schools and a new caster classes that are created specifically to work with the PA magic system.

Stay tuned!

Need the updated Project Arcana spell lists?  Get them here: http://www.legendarypants.net/product/project-arcana-phase-i/