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Herolian Brands

by Carl Quaif

The following is the basis for a "different" type of magic which could be dropped into a Campaign; with slight variations and expansions, it might work well in, for example, a barbarian culture, in place of "normal" magic; alternatively, it works as an addition to the common body of lore. Feel free to use it as you choose.

Alternate Magic - Herolian Brands:

Delivane Crookback's multiversal travels once brought her to the Alternate Prime world of Herol - a world whose native magic was tied up in the creation of magical Brands, tattoos placed on certain parts of the body, which imparted some form of power to the Branded being. Intrigued, Delivane apprenticed herself to Ledendran, a Master of Brands, for a year to learn the basics of this art; upon returning home, she was delighted to discover that Herolian magic retained its efficacy even on Mystara. She has since taught the rudiments of Branding (treat as a three-slot Skill; only Delivane is qualified to teach it at present) to other Magi.

The process of Branding is akin to the tattooist's art; it requires special dyes, created using expensive and difficult-to-obtain ingredients, and a fine needle of solid gold to prick the skin and implant the dye beneath it. Once the tattoo is in place, an extensive ritual (equivalent to a 6th-level spell, and memorised in a suitable slot - each different Brand requires a separate ritual, which must be taught or researched) is performed to enchant the Brand. An individual can bear any number of Brands, if they can bear the strain.

Brands detect faintly as magical to a Detect Magic spell; they can be removed only by a Dispel Magic cast by a Mage of at least five levels higher than the Brander, a suitably-worded Wish, or by physically removing the Brand - and the skin it lies beneath - from the body. The creator of the Brand (only) may dispel the Brand's powers by reversing the original ritual, although this leaves the bearer with a non-magical tattoo. The Day of Dread causes the powers of the Brands to become dormant, regaining their powers the next day.

Branding does not come without cost: the recipient of the Brand must sacrifice a portion of her life-force, or physical/mental prowess, to help empower the magic. Each Brand received costs the recipient either one attribute point from their Prime Requisite - if there is more than one PR, the highest score is used - or 1d4 hp, deducted permanently from their total (DM's choice). The only exceptions to this rule are Attribute Brands (see below), which draw 1 point from an opposing Attribute, or Slave Brands, which deduct hp from the Brand-Master instead.

A selection of Brands - most of Delivane's available selection - are listed below. DMs are encouraged to come up with further examples of their own.

- The Warlock Brand: a crimson 5-pointed star, placed on the right cheek. This Brand grants the recipient the spellcasting abilities of a 1st-level Mage; any spells must be found and learnt separately, however. On Herol, this Brand is used to grant Mage-potential to likely candidates. The recipient has the potential to improve her abilities through training (and the acquisition of experience points), as per a normal Mage; if a 0-level human, she will progress normally as a Mage. If the recipient is already trained in another Class, however, she has the potential to become split-classed; to progress as a Mage, she must donate all XP received in any particular adventure into the Mage-class. No split-class character can progress in both classes at the same time, although she can alternate freely. Receipt of the Brand also permits usage of Mage-specific magical items as if a Mage of that level.

- The Priest Brand: a silver-grey birdlike shape, placed on the left cheek. This Brand grants the recipient the Turning powers of a 1st-level Cleric. As per the Warlock Brand, above, the recipient may advance as a split-class; however, he must ally with an Immortal or Ethos to do so - the initial Turning power is fuelled by the Brand itself. The Priest Brand allows the recipient to use Cleric-specific magical items, unless they are restricted to Clerics of particular Immortals.

- The Brand of Prophecy: a pair of blue zigzags covering the lips. This Brand grants the ability to perceive the future, both in dreams and visions. The power is not under the recipient's control, however, and occurs randomly (i.e. at the DM's convenience). Prophets on Herol are highly regarded, often taking positions of great importance amongst their people.

- The Moon-Touched Brand: a black crescent moon, placed on the forehead. This Brand grants the recipient the ability to Hide in Shadows with the same chances as a 1st-level Thief. If the recipient can already Hide in Shadows (a Thief/Rake/Bard), their effective level in this ability is boosted by one. The recipient receives no other Thief-like skills, however; and unlike the Warlock and Priest Brands, the Brand does not allow the bearer to improve on this level of skill (unless already a Thief or similar).

- The Beastmaster Brand: a dun-brown representation of a curved animal horn, placed over the left brow. This Brand grants the knowledge and Skills of Animal Empathy and Animal Training to the recipient, but only for one particular type of beast (horse, dog, etc). A second such Brand may be placed over the right brow, to grant Skill with another beast type, if desired, but two is the limit. This Brand usually grants Skill with normal domestic animals, although wild beasts or even magical creatures (DM's decision) might be possible.

- Attribute Brands: simple circles of different colours, representing each of the Attributes, placed on various parts of the body (the palm of the hand for Strength, for example, or the forehead for Intelligence). These boost the level of the chosen Attribute by one; unfortunately, as noted above, any such gain will require the sacrifice of one point from another Attribute. No Attribute can ever be raised by more than one point, using this method. Should the Brand be Dispelled or destroyed, the raised Attribute reverts to its former level; however, the sacrificed point is not regained.

- Slave Brands: These are individually-designed sigils, created by each Brand Master for her own use; they are placed on the subject's chest. The Brand Master must first place a Master Sigil on her own chest, twice the size of the Slave Brand, and costing one Intelligence point. Thereafter, each Slave Brand costs the Brand Master (not the Branded target) 1d4 hp from her permanent total. Thereafter, the victim of the Slave Brand obeys the Master as if Charmed, with the notable addition that he or she will actually kill, or lay down his/her own life, if so ordered. Permanently enslaving others in this way is frowned upon by the Heroli; on Mystara, it might be considered an Evil act (DM's decision).