The Gift [M seeks quality F writer for dark historic magery][Homebrewed Setting]

Started by Barding, October 19, 2012, 12:36:42 PM

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"Rowan tree and reddest reed
Put the witches to their speed"

"Once no words were needed to descibe the weather save 'the sky is low and birdless' or the 'sky is high and heeds our song'. No tongue of man nor woman was needed for instead there were dances, old wordless music. Pounding blood and dripping sweat, marrying soil and the crackle of wood. And any fool, be he old or young, could look to the skies and feel its rains or wind and from it know that the earth would drink, drown, or fall to drought. And we would pray or praise accordingly. Those were days of movement: the ebbs and flows of land, body, Winter to Spring. Yet now the days are being nailed down and all must have a word to name it, keeping it still. Our ways are forgotten or fading. And men in stone cities talk of the weather in words dull, still, static and mundane as churchstone."

"It is the year of Our Lord 1200.
I pray this new age mayhap be blessed
In Your Sight O Lord."

The turn of this century throws a grim world into focus. Rome has fallen. Constantinople has been sacked and the wonders of the ancient world are chewed at by the jaws of time. Much of learning and of lofty goals have been forgotten or have drowned under the heavy rain of superstition that falls upon this age. The world is a fractious one, rife with forces that seek to stifle and unite: the iron embrace of the Church and the steely yoke of Feudalism, growing stronger with every turning year, and stamping down whatever threatens their advance. Both speak of honour, or of salvation, or the watching eyes of Heaven, yet in a world like this it is hard to see how these ideas could ever belong. Heaven seems far away while death itself is cheap. Honour is for stories and fools. Welcome to Dark Medieval Europe.

The setting is history, looked at through a mirror, darkly. The nights are colder, darker, and the fires that cast what light they may also cast longer, deeper shadows. The Crusades eat away at generations of young men, sweeping eastward like locusts to feed on the ruin and war they have stirred up in Araby. Bandits, marauders, deserters all roam the trackless wilds, preying on just and unjust alike. Nations tear at each others' throats, vying for scraps of land. The rich and highborn hide from this world in towers, forts, castles and palaces, leaning on all below them with crushing force: the poor are both cursed and blessed with every new day they live on this earth, free in name yet wearing chains many will never throw off. True religious zeal and chivalry are rarer than gold and, more often than not, they are masks that hide cruelty, hatred and fear of change and difference.

This world is a place of mystery and magic, and its darker shadows hide darker secrets, darker beliefs. Without science and reason, magic and superstition give the only explanations and understandings available in this world. Indeed, many of them are based in reality, or even influence it: little is deemed 'mere superstition' and the full-grown fear the stories with which they warn their children as much as the young do. Though the Church condemns baneful magicks in name, priests still bless the fields at sowing and harvest time and each village has a half-mad wise-woman, consulted at the first sign of illness or even for match-making, charms, curses. The old ways of paganism still brood and lick their wounds in this world, even as the Church seeks to root them out. There is a spark of the supernatural even in daily life, whether born from faith or fear. But gone are the days of which the old tales tell: when men and women called fire from the heavens with words meant for no mortal tongue; when wisefolk called upon gods who answered, or donned the skins of bears for battle. Aren't they? Perhaps not entirely. Though the age of mythic magick is ended, there are still those born with power in their blood and bones, and however they harness it, harness it they do. And when they exercise their will, in ways great or small, reality changes to their beck and call.

Call these men and women what you will: wizards, witches, magi, shamans, sorcerers, alchemists, vaeldermen, miracle-workers or infernalists. The fact of what they can do remains. And they are what I'd like to base this roleplay idea around.

In short: I'd like to collaborate on a roleplay
set in a darker version of 13th century Europe,
North Africa and Asia Minor, with supernatural
touches. Or perhaps another historical setting?
You'll find other suggestions later in this thread.
Either way, I would like this roleplay to involve

MAGICK. (With a 'K'...)

But first, a little bit about what I'm looking for...

My O/Os page talks pretty extensively about what I enjoy in a co-writer. But here are the basics, set down for your convenience...

Above all, I'm looking for quality writing. I don't care about what tense you prefer to use, or whether you prefer to write in the first or third person. I can bend and break to accomodate those sort of preferences. But what I will not budge on is the quality of the writing. This does not mean 'good grammar'. It's more and less than that. It means an expressive level of detail and a respect for pacing in your prose. It means goodies like imagery, knowing how to make punctuation and syntax work for you and your character, not the reverse. It means a sense of style appropriate to the story's tone, and to your character. And that's all there is to it. I want literature.

Do not confuse post-length with post-quality. Although I'd prefer multi-paragraph posts in situations where detail is paramount, but when the action requires interaction, and just needs to keep on rolling then shorter ones might even work best.

That's another thing I'd love to see in an ideal co-writer: initiative, confidence. The ability and conviction to throw me an occasional curve-ball, pitch me your ideas. Inspire me.

I'd like someone capable of playing female characters. I don't care much about your real life gender, wherever it falls on the spectrum. More important is your ability to play interesting, balanced, characters. Characters every bit as psychologically complex and well-realized as any real person worth a damn.

While I'm not as insistent on this as I am on the previous two things...It'd also be nice if you were a relatively prompt poster. Don't panic. I don't mean tennis-serve-fast. A good solid post every day or three would, however, be ideal. Of course, I understand that we all have lives, and I promise to respect that yours may affect your posting speed. That's totally fine. And for all you slower posters out there: sometimes a post's so good it's worth the wait!

Creativity. Imagination. A dash of enthusiasm maybe? Those wouldn't go amiss. Nor would willingness to do maybe a little bit of research into the setting, if necessary. I wanna collaborate on this. Let's try to inspire one another.

Thank you for reading this list. I hope I didn't come across too harsh. But I'm hoping that the kinda writer I'm looking for will not balk at this. They'll agree that they're looking for the same thing. Every entry on this list, I also try to bring out in myself. I'm no hypocrite (I hope). So you give me your best, and I'll give you mine. If you choose to write with me. Thanks again.

If you feel like you meet those criteria, please read on!
:: O/Os ::
Updated 09/08/2021

:: Cravings ::
Updated 20/09/2021

:: Accepting new stories only in very special cases. ::


The Gift,
The Gifted,
& Game Details

This is not your average High Fantasy swords and sorcery game. I'd like this to be historically rooted, with magick steeped in tradition and dogma, but also with as many ways of working it as there are men or women capable of doing so. Most of all, yes, magick is an enormous fount of power in this setting, but it is also inherently risky, capable of damaging the body and sanity of its caster, and of twisting the world around him or her. It is a blessing and a curse, and that's without even considering what other inhabitants of this dark medieval world would think of those who possess it. A person with the Gift can expect to be hunted or revered from one land to the next, and all it takes to pass from one state to the other is a spell gone awry. The main thing that separates this age from the age of mythic magick, is that Gifted people are so often forced to hide their powers where once they flaunted them.

One other thing worth considering, when it comes to the flavour of magick in this setting...As I've said, there are many ways of working magick. I have some ideas for the major ways, and I'll go into detail on them soon enough. However, no matter the style of magick, it is at its most powerful when cast formulaically, in ways well-known to the caster. Tried and tested ways, requiring research and time to learn: spells. Though magick is potentially capable of achieving anything, and a Gifted person may outlive many within this age, it is near impossible to learn to manipulate all one possibly could. And within a Gifted person's area of expertise, the most reliable and efficient way to work magick is through spells familiar to them, whether learnt or created personally. Magick can be cast on-the-fly, spontaneously, but its effects will be limited, or unpredictable, and therefore dangerous. Sound good so far? Then I'll go on.

I've mentioned that magick is as much a curse as a blessing. This goes beyond the potential of the powers it provides. The Gift is a strange thing, setting apart those who possess it from their peers and from the natural world. Though mortal, and part of the world itself, it will never fully accept anyone with the Gift again, from the time this Gift awakens up to their dying day. This is an effect that goes by many names. I'll call it the Aura. The aura of a Gifted person is likely to be as varied as any who possess it, but there are some common factors. It is an unseen force, but its effects are obvious enough. In the presence of the Gift, humans feel anxious, on-edge, and are possessed by a wordless suspicion, directed at the Gifted person. They regard them with an envy they can't quite explain. Beyond this, effects vary from wrath to unhealthy lust, but the Aura changes people, and never for the better. Mundane animals will rarely trust a Gifted person either. The Aura makes them feel threatened and they'll often be ready to fight or flee at the first hint of its presence. Further, and perhaps most saddening of all, the natural world itself recoils at the Aura's presence. If a Gifted person stays in one place for too long, the world around them will warp. Weather may grow volatile or disease may set in. Nights may grow filled with unearthly whispering. Cows may produce sour milk or wells might run dry, or stagnant. Metal may rust abnormally fast and a scent of ozone may fill the area. The effects vary from one Aura to another, but the result is the same: the Gifted are doomed to be wanderers, travelling or seeking out isolation, whether they wish to or not. Loners they are too, with the only kind company they can expect coming from others like them. And in those cases suspicion or rivalry may run just as deep as in mundane men and women. For even among the Gifted, there are divisions.


At the core of every Gift is its source. Such sources are called a Gift's 'Foundation'. The ground from which it sprang and continues to grow. The Foundation, described simply, is what a Gifted person draws their power from. Though sometimes this differentiation may not be the most obvious, it is the primary way to divide and define Gifted. The main types of foundation are as follows.

Spirit-Binders. These are men and women whose power stems from bargaining with spirits, or binding them to their will. Their Gift is in their connection to these spirits, while the Spirits themselves work much of the magick. Of course, the way such Gifted people interact with these spirits, and the form these spirits take vary as much as the Gifted themselves. One Spirit-Binder may be a Siberian shaman, leaving offerings for the spirits of their homeland and gaining their power and aid through fair exchange. Another may be a young woman from what was once Helenic Greece who still observes the old rites of her people, honouring her countless ancestors through rituals and offerings of supplication, by which she gains their guidance and skill. Still another may be a necromancer, binding the spirits of the dead to his will and having them do his bidding, driven by an equal mixture of threats and cajoling, spells and contracts. Some may even traffic with darker forces, invoking demons and yoking them to their own ends through names, incense, circles and pentagrams.

Sky-Callers. Men and women who work magick through the power of their faith, acting not as if they change reality themselves, but as if the divine changes it through them. They range from the Christian zealot, hair-shirted and marching to the will of their God to the Holy Land: a man who calls upon the names of angels and saints to aid their supplicants. To the Imam who invokes the will of his own God through prayer and sacred geometry. They may be a rabbi, continuing in the vein of King Solomon himself, working through Kaballah and reflections of his god's name. Or a priestess of her land's old faith, who calls upon the Seasons, the Earth, and the pulse of Life - her gods and godesses - through dance, ecstacy, fire and bloodshed.

Mystery-Seekers. Perhaps closest to what readily comes to mind at the word 'sorceress', 'wizard', or 'magus', these men and women change reality through their own means. They may give praise to one god, many, or none, but their power comes from within: through knowledge and force of will. They may believe that the world contains mysteries that let it be bent, influenced, or bound to a strong will: secret languages, symbols, laws of connection and sympathy. Grand theories on the truth of things, and the secret qualities of metals, minerals, incenses and herbs. They are as disparate and varied as the previous two groups. Perhaps even moreso, for one would be hard-pressed to find two Mystery-Seekers who agree. They are a parodox: viewing all knowledge as powerful and worthwhile, stealing and borrowing with impunity from one another, from folklore, from ancient traditions, while also often viewing their way of working magick as the right way. One may be a scholarly hermetic, unearthing a collection of secret truths from Ancient Greece and Egypt, combining them into a language of power, letting them control what they speak of. Another may be an alchemist, discovering the hidden properties of minerals, symbols, and combining them to change things. Or perhaps a norseman, following the example of Odin, going through pain and trial to learn the secrets of runelore. Another still may be a Moorish prince or mercenary, using astronomy, astrology, and geometry to focus the powers of the elements, glean glimpses of the future, and perceive the distant present. All these and more can be defined as Mystery-Seekers.

I have tried to make these three categories as inclusive and versatile as possible. However, please note that they're by no means all-encompassing. If you have an idea for a character who might have a Foundation other than those listed here, shoot it my way. We can totally discuss it!

Also note that these categories are more of an abstraction than anything else. A mage that we, as writers and players, might describe as a 'Spirit-Binder' would almost definitely not refer to themselves as such. Hope that makes sense. These categories are not organisations, or even things of which your average Gifted person would be aware. If they knowing anything of other Gifted, it'd simply be that other people can work magick and that they do it in many different ways. But that doesn't mean the Gifted are not organised...


Despite the rivalries and differences between the Gifted, those who possess it can and often do group together. From covens of like-minded pagan priestesses to hodge-podges of sorcerers, shaman, and alchemists, differing in all ways save that they wish to stay alive in this hostile world, and realising the safety in numbers. But beyond such small groups, cults, chantries, or whatever you may wish to call them, there are larger organisations, united in purpose and name, if not in practice. Here are some of the more prominent organisations among the Gifted.

The Order of Hermes. Claiming to be the most ancient of all traditions, the Order is a powerful and far-reaching force throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. Devoted to establishing a grand unifying theory of magick, and a 'right' way of working it, the Order's approach to magick is systematic, philosophical, and deeply conservative. In theory, the Order operates a 'join or die' policy on all other practitioners of magick, but their power has waned over the last few centuries and such rules are no longer practicable. For the first time, in this age, the Order has true rivals for dominance of Europe. They have grown more insular, offering the choice of joining or death to fewer and fewer outsiders, instead judging that the rule only applies to 'True Magi' of which they are the only examples. All else are charlatans and hedge-wizards, not worthy of notice, or of the choice. Through isolationism, the Order stays safe, with master or mistress handing down their legacy to apprentices, power and knowledge staying within the stagnating Order. Where once they influenced the fates of nations, this isolationism limits their sway with each passing year. Perhaps, soon, the Order itself will face a choice: change, or fall by the wayside, as a footnote in history.

The Hands of Gabriel. The growth of the Hands parallels that of the Church. Where once both organisations were prosecuted for their beliefs, and seen as politically dangerous and subversive, the Church has since become the single largest political and religious power in Western Europe. The influence of the Hands has grown with it, and in many cases their Christian zeal and power directly shaped the expansion of the Church, shaping an empire spanning an entire culture. A group composed almost unanimously of Sky-Callers, the Hands of Gabriel see themselves as the most direct connection the world has with the divine: they are messengers of their God, and when necessary, they are his sword and shield also. Unlike the Order of Hermes, they are evangelical and, at times, militant, aiding the spread of their faith with passionate and forceful intensity, whether from behind the scenes or directly, on the battlefield or from the pulpit. Officially, they acknowledge all other workers of magick as witches, heretics, or infidels. Unlike the Order, they provide a firm choice: fight, run, or die. More than any other magickal Tradition they hold the Dark Medieval world in the palms of their hands. For good or ill their influence grows unchecked.

The Kamil. The foremost magickal organisation east of Outremer, from the Holy Land to China, India, and Persia, the Kamil represent the greatest accomplishments of muslim society: philosophers, naturalists, holy men and women, diplomats and explorers. They hold that their history stretches back untold thousands of years, past where history begins. Even beyond this, they believe they are a re-founding of a group that failed and fell into obscurity long before even their own genesis. Though Islam shares many of the group's core tenets, the group itself predates the religion and not all Kamil are followers of that particular faith. Rather they view it as reflecting their own beliefs. Beliefs they see in the writings of many scholars from many cultures, from Plato to Far Eastern philosophies: that the world, space, individuality, are all lies born of imperfect human perception; that all is part of the same creation and being. This being is the Kamil, or 'Perfect One': the state of all-being that the Kamil themselves give up name and individual identity to grow closer to. This perception of the world gives them a mastery of space and the connectedness of all things that few other Gifted can boast. This is a doctrine they seek to encourage the world towards, seeking out a new Unity of all things. A sort of ascendence. And they will persuade, coax, fight and die to bring this Unity about.

The Old Way. As a coalition of disparate pagan faiths, The Old Way is not itself very old. Such a coalition was never called for until now, and yet the magickal traditions that comprise it are indeed ancient. Less of a coherent organisation than the previously mentioned groups, they are more of a last ditch collaboration in the face of what seems to its adherents to be the End Times. With the march of Christianity, the Old Way have much to fight for. Even if it is a losing battle that they fight, wherever there is paganism the Old Ways can be found, administering, teaching, letting the old flames of the past burn still in the present. Their adherents vary from passive stewards of their ancestors' ways to freedom fighters, literally warring for their traditions. The faiths themselves are different, ranging from supplicants of the Roman or Greek pantheons to Welsh or Irish druids, but each is under threat, and each recognises the need for protection in the face of extinction. Despite their dwindling power, the Old Way is far from powerless. Their connection with nature is unprecedented and this offers them potent magick indeed. And there are still parts of the world where they hold sway and will fight to keep it this way: the Baltic, the Balkans; Russia and Scandinavia are lands where the Old Ways' blood is in the earth itself. And they will let no new god force it out.

These are the largest groups within the setting, but by no means the only ones. Feel free to suggest more, and bear in mind that many Gifted will belong to none of the above, but rather preferring to strike out on their own, alongside the machinations of these vying Traditions.

Game Details

Annnnnnnnd we're almost done. Serious respect to anyone who read all of that. I know it takes some staying power. Thank you so much for coming this far. It's time for the vague part. The part where you start to participate. The plot, the half-formed ideas of what I want from a story in this setting. All of that. And I admit, my ideas right now are limited: I'd like to collaborate on something. I'd like to craft two characters and work on bringing their lives hurtling together within a story. Here is what I know so far:

The story could be set anywhere within this world: North Africa, Western or Eastern Europe, the Holy Land or Persia. As I previously mentioned, the Gift forces its possessors to travel, so the story may range from place to place. I'd like that. Travel's exciting.

I would like the story to involve two Gifted main characters, preferably of low-to-middling levels of power. I like to keep things gritty. I want the characters to develop throughout the story, as they seek power or simple happiness, whether the source be mystical or mundane.

I will be playing a male. I'd like you to play a female character. That said, I do enjoy playing with and redefining traditional gender-roles, and such a restrictive, patriarchal setting as this seems like a perfect chance to do that. Let's shake things up a bit.

So, there'll be a boy and a girl...This does not instantly presuppose romance or sex. That is not the end goal of this story. Neither sex nor romance are inevitable. I'd like that, if the characters click. And sure, I'd like the characters to click, because afterall, I do like me a bit of romance-and/or-sex. But even then, I'd love it to take the form of a slow-burning sexual tension, whether it rises out of initial dislike and rivalry, or mutual wariness, unspoken respect, or outright fear. I'd like the development of any relationship between the characters to be realistic.

I want to collaborate on the plot with you. I'd like you to try and carry your weight. Suggest things, help me create this alongside you, not just for you. Brainstorming will be a fun, and perhaps extensive process.

I've figured out a sort of freeform, diceless system for figuring out what our characters are and are not capable of doing, magickally. I may also invent a similar system, probably involving character profiles and things, and a minimum of 'stats', for figuring out the same thing with regards to our characters' mundane talents.

That's really all there is to it. Thank you for reading, and please, please, if you're interested, do respond. PM me. I'd love to hear from you. Ask questions, give suggestions, say what you liked and disliked. A great many things I said here can be changed. This is an outline and I'm happy for us to play with it. Wanna go with this but set it in a different historical period? Cool.

I've actually done a bit of thinking about other historical periods and places to set this in. Although I'd definitely enjoy some early dark medieval magery, I'd also be very interested in, perhaps, Feudal Japan (say, 15th-16th Century?), the High Renaissance, Colonial America, Ancient Greece, or even the heydays of America's Wild Western frontier. I could potentially elaborate this idea of magick for any of the above settings, and imagining how it fits into the history and attitudes of the time and the place. But know this: the closer the time period comes to the present, the darker days will grow for Magick, and the more limited in power the Gifted may be, as they will have to act with even greater subtlety, lest they risk madness, mob justice, or worse, the whipcrack of reality, vengeful for being bent and broken and toyed with.

But anyway, what I wanna suggest is that I'm open to suggestion! Wanna introduce another Tradition? Cool. Wanna suggest a bit of alternate history? Go for it! Wanna keep everything as-is? Lovely. It all works.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Credits, Inspirations, and Sources Stolen and Borrowed From with Impugnity: Ars Magicka. Mage: the Dark Ages. A Wizard of Earthsea. Chaucer. Kingdom of Heaven. The Tempest. Prospero's Books. Weird bits and pieces of Anglo-Saxon literature and scholarship. Game of Thrones or A Song of Ice and Fire. And many other things I'm sure I've forgotten to mention.

P.S. This setting is of course entirely a fictional one and does not attempt to reflect, offensively or otherwise, any existing or once-existing real organisations, religions, people or places. It's fiction, so please enjoy it as such.
:: O/Os ::
Updated 09/08/2021

:: Cravings ::
Updated 20/09/2021

:: Accepting new stories only in very special cases. ::



  • Added a paragraph about my ongoing labour: producing an inclusive, streamlined, freeform system of magick for this roleplay, to establish what characters can and cannot do.
  • Added a disclaimer at the end of the second post.
  • Edited and added to the 'Credits' section of the second post.
  • Got the image heading the second post to play nice, finally. So now it looks halfway presentable.
:: O/Os ::
Updated 09/08/2021

:: Cravings ::
Updated 20/09/2021

:: Accepting new stories only in very special cases. ::



  • Re-formatted and re-opened the whole thread, as I still don't seem to have found anyone to write with me on this particular idea.
  • Added a paragraph towards the end of the second post, elaborating on other potential historical periods in which to set this.
  • Also added a little pat on the back, from me to myself, for having finally created a sort of mashed-up diceless, freeform system for determining what our characters can and cannot do with magick.
:: O/Os ::
Updated 09/08/2021

:: Cravings ::
Updated 20/09/2021

:: Accepting new stories only in very special cases. ::