Ethereal Visions 1:

MAGIC AND THE ETHER

By Andrew C. Durston, Copyright © 1999

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

Hi! This is the first in hopefully a series of articles and essays concerning Rolemaster, various variations thereupon, and my campaign world of Arda (unrelated to J. R. R. Tolkien's world except for the whim of a Terran planetologist). This first piece concerns the realm of the Ether. Except for a short descriptive section and an Arcane spell list in the Rolemaster Companion I, the Ethereal Plane or realm has been relatively untouched. What follows are some concepts and descriptions of my version of the Ethereal plane as well as a variation of the Ethereal Mastery spell list from the RC1.

* * *

The lecture hall became silent as the room became dark when a curtain was rapidly lowered across its only window. A faint click of heels upon wood could be heard crossing the stage to the lectern. Heads of various forms and sizes rose to attention as Telengard shuffled his notes on the stand. As the foremost researcher of the Arcane Guild upon the nature of the alternate planes, his short and swarthy appearance belied his vaunted power and temper. It was rumored that he had displaced assistants to planes only he knew of when he was displeased. The knowledge that his tribe, the Chelni, worshipped Melkor, Lord of Darkness, only served to enhance that reputation.

"As I have said in previous lectures," Telengard's voice echoed about the hall, "Arda exists at a fortunate nexus of three important planes of reality. The first is what we call 'astral space,' 'N-space,' or 'normal space.' This is our realm, where we eat, live, and drink. The second is the realm of the Spirits, also known as 'spirit space,' 'S-space,' or 'the Spirit Plane.' In the next few weeks we will have a guest lecturer, a Shaman of Varda, present an introduction to this realm. Today, however, we will discuss the Ether. The Ethereal Plane, also known as 'ethereal space,' 'magic space,' or 'M-space,' is the dimension that is the source of that base form of magical energy known as the Arcane. The energy permeates into normal space where it is collected from the surroundings as the Essence, focused by the mind through Mentalism or provided by the gods themselves via Channeling. There are those as well who manipulate the Arcane itself; these users of the Primal Magic are, of course, the Archmages and Arcists.

"The Ethereal Plane is the home of magic and thus is full of danger and surprises. All spells are visible; they can be recognized and thereby affected by creatures and inhabitants of the Ether. It is surmised that the random chance that even the simplest enchantment may fail is perhaps due to the interference of a creature of the Ether. These beasts feed upon the Arcane and thus perhaps one happened by and ate your spell." Amusement rippled through the hall; even Telengard hazarded a grin, perhaps remembering previous experiments gone awry.

"As well as spells and enchantments, items of magic and users of such can be so espied. Items tend to be visible as faint outlines of their form; however, more puissant items like those called 'artifacts' will have a stronger presence. Power storage devices like adders and charged items (typically wands, rods, and staves) appear to be segmented; with study one can determine their nature.

"The most unusual aspects of the Ethereal Plane concern students of the Arcane like ourselves. All wielders of magic present an image upon the Ether. Archmages and users of the Essence, that is, Essentialists, appear as silhouettes of their physical form; the color tends to be that favored by or associated with the user. Users of Mentalism, that is, Mentalismists, appear as faint shadows of their natural forms with a greater spherical glow centered where their heads are. Most strangely, though—and I have not fathomed this—" several "oohs" of surprise were heard, "those who gather or wield power for a greater power or deity appear as a common symbol of that deity. Thus, a Cleric of Manwë would appear as a spear or bolt of lightning, while a Paladin of Makar, the God of War, would appear as a fist gripping a sword. Wielders who use two forms of power appear as a combination of both forms. The greater the experience of the person, the stronger their presence. It is possible to read in ethereal space by the light of some of our more learned elders," Telengard smiled and the crowd roared; surely the deans of the Guild grimaced in their offices.

"Perhaps in the future I will take some of you upon a journey into the realm of the Ether, but for now a description will have to suffice. The Ethereal Plane has no land per se. There is no planet of Arda and no Arien the Sun. It is an infinite expanse of swirling energy manifesting itself in the form of strange weather or unusual creatures. Important landmarks of Arda, especially most Earthnodes, are visible in the Ether. In addition, if carefully sought, regions where various wards, circles, and symbols are placed can be determined.

"Creatures can be classified much like those of the various Elemental Planes contained within the Maelstrom, but the effect of their attacks is much different. Ethereal creatures can cause one to be displaced within the plane, displaced within time or space, or ejected back to one's home plane or onto another, less hospitable, demesne. Now let us step into the lab where I will show some examples of ethereal creatures...."

1.0. Ethereal Encounter Tables

There is a 20% chance (d100 rolls of 01–10 and 91–100) of an encounter for each entry into ethereal space, for each four-hour period spent in ethereal space, and for each 20-mile increment of an ethereal-space journey. (Use appropriate multipliers to the distance increment if the journey is done at high speeds, say, 10´ .)

 

d100

Encounter

01–40

Ethereal Weather

41–70

Ethereal Creature

71–90

Ethereal Feature

91–95

Ethereal Traveler

96–00

Special or Ethereal Traveler

1.1. Ethereal Weather

Ethereal weather is representative of a class of variations in the structure of ethereal space and flows of energy in the region through which the traveler is passing. First roll a d100, open-ended high only, to determine the relative strength or severity of the phenomenon, with a low result having the least effect. Ethereal weather can affect a traveler on three levels: physical, sensory, and magical.

d100

Effect

01–15

Physical

16–30

Sensory

31–45

Magical

46–60

Physical and Sensory

61–75

Physical and Magical

76–90

Sensory and Magical

91–95

All Three

96–00

Special or All Three

Physical effects can include displacement of the traveler through the plane, physical damage from the weather (probably best represented as elemental ball attacks), or physical changes due to plane warping (using physical alteration criticals if desired). Sensory effects can include enhancement or deprivation of one or more senses (blinding or concealing flows of color, noise, numbing cold, etc.) with the attendant bonuses or penalties. Magical or mana effects can include the increase or decrease of localized mana and the traveler's personal supply of mana (power points, adders, etc.). Magical effects can also include the warping or altering of spells cast in the area of effect.

Ethereal weather usually lasts for a number of minutes equal to the severity roll and covers an area equal to 100' radius times the severity roll.

Example: Katea "projects" into ethereal space to look about. The GM rolls an ethereal weather encounter of severity level 65, so for 65 minutes an area of 6500' (more than a mile) radius is affected. Next, the GM rolls "Physical and Magical" on the effect chart. Katea enters an area of "ethereal desert" where he finds both his power points and exhaustion points are being quickly drained away. Katea decides to "project out."

1.2. Ethereal Creatures

The following creatures were introduced in the Elemental Companion:

d100 OEH

Creature

01–50

Wispling

51–75

Servant

76–85

Zephyr Hound

86–95

Serpent

96–100

Riding Beast

101–150

Nonintelligent Ethereal Mass*

151–175

Guardian

176–185

Intelligent Ethereal Mass*

186–195

Giant

196–200

Lesser Drake

³ 201

Greater Drake or Special

* The "ethereal masses" are ethereal elementals that follow the patterns and rules described in the Elemental Companion.

1.3. Ethereal Feature

This encounter requires the GM to check the local world map first. Ethereal features are usually images of items in normal or astral space. These items can include (but are not limited to) wards and warded buildings and items, constructs, Earthnodes of all varieties, running or expired spell effects, special creatures or lairs, and the like. This category is the least structured and most open to the GM's imagination.

1.4. Ethereal Traveler

Ethereal travelers are usually limited to three groups of people, all Spell-Users. The first group consists of Archmages or others with access to such ether-manipulation spell lists as Ethereal Mastery (RC1 14) or the Ethereal Travel list presented herein. They may be found traveling in either corporeal form or intellect form, or may be simply viewing ethereal space through a gate or window in normal space. The second group consists of Spell-Users with access to such lists as the Warlock's Scrying Guard (RC2 48) or the Seer's Guarded Sight (RC2 85). In ethereal space they are always encountered while projecting their conscious thoughts through ethereal space in search for some item or information. The third and rarest group consists of the Maazhat "Madwands," Spell-Users who specialize in traveling and exploring of ethereal space. Note that the travelers mentioned in the first two groups can belong to any spell-using race. They may include intelligent "monsters" or even the fana (temporary incarnations) of supernatural beings sometimes called gods or demi-gods (the demi-gods of crafting, Cúrunir et al., are said to be particularly at home on the ethereal plane).

2.0. Ethereal Combat and "Death Effects"

"Some of our more martially oriented students," Telengard resumed as the audience slowly resettled in the hall, "have inquired as to how one may fight upon the Ethereal Plane. As we will soon discover, one may travel the Ether either in physical form or via a projection of one's intellect. In physical form, a traveler can use all items that were brought with him into the Plane. However, if slain upon the Plane, the traveler's body remains there until retrieved—or devoured—by fellow travelers. When projecting, one can only use one's spells or similar innate abilities. However, if one remains near or in one's body, then the projector can use personal items as well. Note, however, that most spells cast upon the Ethereal Plane will affect the Astral Plane as well. A now-departed assistant of mine," the crowd grimaced, for this was Telengard's term for someone displaced to another plane, "fired a wand of Ice Bolts at an ethereal snake that was menacing him. Aye, he drove the snake away, but he also put a fair-sized hole in my liquor cabinet as well! A projecting Spell-User can take damage, but when he falls unconscious, he is ejected from the Ethereal Plane. The projected thoughts return to the body. This transition can have detrimental effects."

If a character's consciousness is slain in ethereal space, the player must make an open-ended d100 roll, modified by the character's Constitution bonus, and consult the following table:

Score

Result

£ 25

Death

26–75

Coma, 1–10 Weeks

76–90

Coma, 1–10 Days

91–100

Coma, 1–10 Hours

101–110

–50 To All Actions for 8 Hours

111–125

–20 To All Actions for 2 Hours

126–175

–10 To All Actions for 1 Hour

³ 176

No Penalty

For a Death result, in addition to immediately entering soul departure rounds, the victim may also suffer brain damage. Make a second open-ended d100 roll and add 25 minus the value of the first roll. Brain damage results on any value exceeding the character's Constitution score.

A game-master may wish to have the effects of some spells transferred to the physical body of a projecting ethereal traveler. For example, Sorcerer and Evil Essence spells that debilitate the body can affect one's physical form through "sympathetic magic." In addition, the effects of some Mentalism spells should remain with the intellect when it returns to its host body. Note that when projecting one's vacant body is usually quite vulnerable as well.

"As with battles there will be spoils as well. Between two physical opponents the matter is the same as in normal space—collect the booty and continue. When faced with ethereal opponents or creatures, things are different. Ethereal creatures when dying tend to decompose into the Arcane from which they were created. This dispersing mana can be collected via channeling skill [as power points in relation to the strength of the creature, such as PP = CP/5] in a way similar to how our clerical colleagues pass the energies of their deities. With the appropriate spells one can collect information from a 'dead' projecting traveler. Their minds tend to be incapable of resisting.

"I have recently finished several months of research on a new series of enchantments dealing with the Ethereal Plane. This will supplant the current tome of Ethereal Mastery in the Arcane libraries as soon as my experiments have been completed. As you may or may not know, Shamans may travel the realms of the Spirit Plane by projecting their spirits into that realm. After many months of consultation and experimentation I have determined how one can project one's intellect upon the Ethereal Plane with much the same results. This allows one to keep one's body safely at home and explore the local confines of ethereal space. Be careful, though, landmarks are few, and if you get lost, your body may waste away while your consciousness searches for its home.

"If you will open the new text to section 3, I will delineated these new enchantments...."

3.0. Ethereal Travel (Arcane List)

This list replaces the Ethereal Mastery list from the Rolemaster Companion I, § 3.14, p. 14. The list is a combination of spells from the Ethereal Mastery list as well as spells from the Shaman base list Trances (RC2 70) modified for the Ethereal Plane. Each entry onto the Ethereal Plane should include a random ethereal encounter roll (see § 1.0).

 

Class

Area of Effect

Duration

Range

 1—Ethereal Vision

U

self

10 min/lvl

self

 2—Blink

F

self

1 rnd/lvl (C)

self

 3—Ethereal Travel I

FM

self+

1 min/lvl

5'

 4—Phase Store I

F

1 item, 5 lb/lvl

1 day/lvl

touch

 5—Conjuring Circle

FM

5' R sphere

1 min/lvl

10'

 6—Open Window

FM

1 window

1 min/lvl

10'

 7—Ethereal Room

F

10' ´ 10' ´ 10'

10 min/lvl

30'

 8—Ethereal Travel II

FM

self+

5 min/lvl

10'

 9—Locate Window

I

1 window

C

100'/lvl

10—Close Window

FM

1 window

10'

11—Locate Window II

I

1 window

C

1 mi/lvl

12—Lesser Ethereal Gate

F

7' ´ 4'

1 day/lvl

5'

13—Ethereal Travel III

FM

self+

10 min/lvl

15'

14—Concentration

U

self

1 min/lvl

self

15—Locate Window True

I

1 window

C

16—Open Window True

FM

1 window

1 min/lvl

10'

17—Contact Other Plane

FM

self

10 rnd

self

18—Ethereal Travel IV

FM

self+

30 min/lvl

20'

19—Greater Ethereal Gate

F

20' ´ 20'

1 day/lvl

5'

20—Waking Trance

U

self

5 min/lvl

self

 

Class

Area of Effect

Duration

Range

25—Planar Displacement

F

1 target

P

1'/lvl

30—Ethereal Travel True

FM

self+

1 hr/lvl

20'

50—Disjunction

F

30' R

0'

1—ETHEREAL VISION (U): As per the level 9 Ethereal Mastery spell, except it uses the caster's normal perceptive abilities and ranges.

2—BLINK (F): As per the level 3 Ethereal Mastery spell.

3—ETHEREAL TRAVEL I (FM): The caster and up to lvl/5 additional volunteers have their conscious thoughts projected into the Ethereal Plane. There they can wander and explore, cast spells normally, and be attacked by ethereal creatures. If a character should be killed "in spirit" on the Ethereal Plane, that character suffers systematic shock as detailed in § 2.0. Travelers may leave when the spell duration ends or the caster so wills it. Travelers cannot exit the Ethereal Plane onto any plane other than the one from which they started unless their bodies have been moved to that other plane during the spell duration.

4—PHASE STORE I (F): As per the level 4 Ethereal Mastery spell.

5—CONJURING CIRCLE (FM): As per the related spells on the Ethereal Mastery spell list. This spell may be cast at variable power levels (level 5 = type I, level 10 = type II, level 13 = type III, level 16 = type IV, level 20 = type V, and level 30 = type VI) which duplicate the appropriate spells from the Ethereal Mastery list.

6—OPEN WINDOW (FM): This spell may be cast from one's own plane, where it opens a window onto the Ethereal Plane, or from the Ethereal Plane, where it opens a window to one's home plane. Otherwise, the spell functions much like the level 6 Shaman Trances spell.

7—ETHERAL ROOM (F): As per the level 7 Ethereal Mastery spell.

8—ETHERAL TRAVEL II (FM): As Ethereal Travel I, but with an increased duration.

9—LOCATE WINDOW (I): As per the level 9 Shaman Trances spell.

10—CLOSE WINDOW (FM): As per the level 10 Shaman Trances spell.

11—LOCATE WINDOW II (I): As per the level 11 Shaman Trances spell.

12—LESSER ETHERAL GATE (F): As per the level 12 Ethereal Mastery spell.

13—ETHERAL TRAVEL III (FM): As Ethereal Travel I, but with a longer duration and one may attempt to pass through gates to other planes.

14—CONCENTRATION (U): As per the level 14 Shaman Trances spell, this allows the user's body 25% activity on its home plane while the user's conscious thoughts are Ethereal Traveling.

15—LOCATE WINDOW TRUE (I): As per the level 15 Shaman Trances spell.

16—OPEN WINDOW TRUE (FM): As per the level 16 Shaman Trances spell.

17—CONTACT OTHER PLANE (FM): As per the level 18 Ethereal Mastery spell.

18—ETHERAL TRAVEL IV (FM): As Ethereal Travel III, but with a longer duration.

19—GREATER ETHERAL GATE (F): As Lesser Ethereal Gate, but with a larger opening.

20—WAKING TRANCE (U): As Concentration, but the activity allowances of the user's body increases to 75%.

25—PLANAR DISPLACEMENT (F): As per the level 25 Ethereal Mastery spell.

30—ETHERAL TRAVEL TRUE (FM): As per the level 50 Shaman Trances spell.

50—DISJUNCTION (F): As per the level 50 Ethereal Mastery spell.

* * *

"As this lecture ends, I, Telengard, leave you with one final warning concerning ethereal space. Some of you who study the creatures of Arda may know of an insectoid race known as the Maazhat. They are a strange and alien folk, perhaps originating from beyond the Maelstrom. I happened to encounter the projection of one of these creatures, a somewhat free-willed 'lieutenant' calling itself Rint-Rant, in ethereal space. The first thing I noticed was that the creature possessed spells crafted to work in the ethereal realms, most notably to create items of Arcane energy such as shields and swords, as well as to move rather quickly in the realm. Second and more disturbing, this projecting Maazhat or 'Madwand' as it called itself, had the ability to learn spells from within ethereal space, and more importantly, modify or destroy spells by separating their information content from their encircling mana. The Arcane Guild has enjoined me to learn more of these creatures, and I warn you to stay clear of them." With that, Telengard slowly closed his notes. With a slight scowl upon his face, though some said curiosity in his eyes, he left the lectern and exited the hall.

So ends Ethereal Visions 1....