November Campaign Design XII – Artanian Blood Magic

As noted previously, one thing I want to use to differentiate Artanian magic from the more standard type used by the colonists from Hanar-across-the-sea is its basis in blood sacrifice. This is thematically similar to Defiler magic in the Dark Sun setting, which consumes plant life in order to function. Artanian blood magic is similar, but uses the life force of animals and intelligent creatures to function.

Each magic-user spell has an Artanian equivalent, plus there will be some Artanian-only spells. There is a new spell, Read Artanian Magic, which is required for magic-users to be able to utilize such spells. Spell progression lists are the unchanged.

Artanian blood magic spells do not need to be memorized. They are read directly from the magic-user’s spell book. There is no limit to the number of spells that can be cast each day, as long as the requisite hit dice of creatures are sacrificed to “fuel” the spell. All Artanian spells have a somatic component in addition to the normal components; this consists of the killing of a living animal or intelligent creature(s) at the climax of the spell.

The total number of hit dice of sacrificial offerings needed to cast a spell is given below. If the subject is docile, immobilized, or willing, then no roll to hit is required, neither is a roll for damage. If the subject is resisting, then a normal roll to hit is required and damage should be rolled as normal. If the subject is not slain by the hit, then the spell is on hold until the magic-user abandons it or kills the required number of creatures, to a maximum of 1 turn. Only 1 spell can be on hold in this fashion at a time. Creatures with an intelligence of 6 or greater count as their full hit point totals. Creatures with an intelligence of 5 or less count as half of their normal hit dice. Creatures must be slain with a sharp weapon; it is the spilling of the blood that is required, not simply death itself.

It is not necessary that the magic-user himself kill the sacrifice(s). If another does the killing, the victim must be within 10′ of the caster at the time of death. For each creature being sacrificed (not each hit die), 1 segment is added to the casting time of the spell.

Spell Level
Level to Cast
Hit Dice Used
1 1 1-1 1 hp, 10′
2 3 1 2 hp, 10′
3 5 1+ 2 hp, 15′
4 7 2 3 hp, 15′
5 9 3 3 hp, 20′
6 11 4 4 hp, 20′
7 13 5 4 hp, 25′
8 15 6 4 hp, 25′
9 17 7 5 hp, 30′

Spell Level: The level of the spell being cast.

Level to Cast: The minimum experience level needed to cast the spell.
Hit Dice Used: The minimum hit dice needed to sacrifice to cast the spell. Assumes an INT of 6 or higher. Creatures with an INT of 5 or lower count as half. 
Damage: The amount of damage inflicted when the spell is cast, followed by the range. This damage will affect all creatures in the range given, friend or foe. A successful saving throw vs. magic indicates half damage (round up). The caster is similarly impacted, but gets no save.


Artanian blood magic scrolls function the same as their regular counterparts. However, creating such scrolls requires the same sacrifices as noted above for casting, in addition to any other special ingredients the ink requires.

Mixing and Matching

It is possible for a magic-user to use both Artanian spells and regular spells. Neither has an impact on the other, but if an Artanian spell is “on hold” pending the required hit dice worth of sacrifices, a regular spell will disrupt it. Similarly, a regular spell can only be used to slay an offering if the target is within 10′ of the magic-user at the time the spell is cast, and only if blood is spilled (a fireball would not work, for instance, but a wizard blade would).


As can be seen, Artanian magic can lead to very powerful spells earlier than normal (usually an experience level sooner), and the ability to cast an unlimited number of spells per day drastically increases their utility. However, the logistics of having the required number of sacrificial offerings to hand makes this less useful in, for instance, an adventuring party, where supplies are usually scarce and the need for mobility limits the number of creatures that can be brought. It would work much better in a setting where the magic-user stays put and can have offerings brought to him; a wizard in his tower, for instance, or a court magician with the resources of a city or a whole realm at his disposal.

The need for the sacrifices to be intelligent creatures, or only be half useful, is another break on the system from a PC perspective. A clever player might bring a cartful of songbirds along (for instance), but doing so presents its own logistical challenges. It should also be remembered that the damage inflicted by the spell will potentially impact other creatures that have been brought along for the magic-user’s use, not to mention the slow and steady wearing down of his own hit points as the spells are cast.

Once the true implications of this form of magic are discovered and become known, it might well start a “land rush” among the major colonial powers, as they seek to root out and explore additional Artanian ruins and tombs where spell books and other magical paraphernalia might be found. I envision a situation where the colonies know that there was something different about Artanian magic, but they don’t have the key just yet. Maybe it’s as easy as someone finding a Read Artanian Magic spell to open the floodgates. The infrastructure relating to mass sacrifices would be put down to some horrific cult or other, and the moralistic Holy Family church would certainly see that as a cause for the Artanian Empire’s fall. Not that the truth is any better from a moral standpoint, but I love to throw the PCs off the scent with in-game information that turns out to be wrong. Nothing says everything their characters know to be true has to be so…

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.