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D&D 5E [Creative] Spheres of Power & Might by Setting

Libertad

Adventurer
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For the unknowing, there’s an OGL friendly online wiki!

In between my Let’s Read projects I’ve been working on another. As a long-time fan of Spheres of Power, I really enjoy the converted version of 5th Edition. Much like the original system, it too is open-ended without being overpowered, with many options to emulate all kinds of character concepts. As many gamers are fond of using existing settings with their own peculiar foundations of magical law, power levels, and themes, I figured it’d be best to write on how Spheres of Power & Might can be best utilized in some of the more well-known ones. I’ll be covering both official and third party material.

Each post has appropriate sections. Major Traditions covers the Casting and Martial Traditions most known and appropriate to the setting. Advanced/Legendary Talents illustrates if such talents are appropriate for the world, and which ones in certain cases. Technology Level is self-explanatory and discusses how certain choices in the Equipment and Tinkerer spheres may or may not be appropriate. New Rules & Subsystems covers a wide gamut of options indicative appropriate to the Sphere-ified setting. Finally, Popular Archetypes tells you how to best build certain concepts, classes, and character options iconic to the setting!

I will compile entries via a Table of Contents in the OP if possible.

Forgotten Realms
Dragonlance
Ravenloft
Dark Sun
Eberron
Al-Qadim
Midgard
Supers & Sorcery
Odyssey of the Dragonlords
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Forgotten Spheres: the Spheres System for Faerûn

A land of meddling gods and high magic, the world of Toril is perhaps the best-known setting of Dungeons & Dragons. Technically many settings in one, this post primarily covers the continent of Faerûn, with suggestions for alternate eras. As of 5th Edition the continent has gone through many changes before settling back into a post-Spellplague pseudo-retcon. The world as a whole is thus not well-detailed beyond the Northern realms of the Sword Coast, Neverwinter, Silver Marches, and nearby regions.

Major Traditions: Just about every martial and casting tradition can be found in the Realms, although the ones that lean towards a “high-tech” style such as Inventor and Machinist are mostly limited to the Island of Lantan and Gond’s priesthood. Those with Wild Magic (as both a drawback and Universal sphere package) became common after the Time of Troubles due to the study of damaged areas of the Weave. Such scholars learned how to exploit its otherwise unpredictable effects.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Faerûn is brimming with world-altering magic from innumerable fallen civilizations, god-gifted artifacts, and the knowledge of illithids, dragons, and other races of great power. Practically every Advanced and Legendary talent can be found in the Realms in some shape or form, with the higher-level ones being linked in some way to esoteric and powerful magical traditions such as Netherese arcana and Elven High Magic.

Technology Level: The Realms remains at a pseudo-medieval/renaissance level of technology, with little in the way of gunpowder, steampower, and other “modern” innovations. While gunpowder exists, it doesn’t work as well as it does on Earth, so there’s little demand for its use. An alternative known as smokepowder is more popular and performs many of the same functions, albeit is magical and its circulation is more or less controlled by Gond’s faithful. Possessors of the Tinkerer sphere are often reflavored magitech priests of Gond, some forms of old Netherese magic, and gnomish artificers. Modern and Futuristic technology is so rare they may as well be treated as unique magic items unto their own.

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New Rules & Subsystems

The foundations of Toril that enable magic to work are known as the Weave, maintained by the Goddess of Magic. While its underpinnings and laws have changed over time (often with the release of a new D&D Edition), at its heart the Weave’s core rules have more or less been recognizable by mages regardless of era.

Wild Magic: Certain areas where the Weave is damaged are known as Wild Magic Zones. All magic cast within gains a base chance of wild magic typically ranging from 10% to 50% depending on the overall strength of the zone’s discordance. Those with the Wild Magic Drawback add 10% to their chance, albeit those who have at least one Wild Magic talent gain advantage on any saving throws and impose disadvantage on any attack rolls from potentially hostile effects.

Dead Magic Zones are rarer and deadlier, representing areas where the Weave has been torn asunder. The area is considered to be within a permanent Antimagic Field.

For those rare few knowledgeable of the greatest secrets of Mystra’s church, this new Advanced Talent allows one to summon magic even where there is none.

Initiate of Mystra (Metasphere)
Prerequisite:
Universal sphere, 5th level or higher.
Augment 2 sp: You are capable of using magical sphere abilities even within a dead magic zone or an antimagic field. You must first roll a spellcasting ability check against the caster’s spell DC; in the case of dead magic zones, the DC typically ranges from 12 to 20 based on the age and scope of said zone. A successful result allows the sphere effect to function normally, but a failed result causes the consumables (spell points, material components, etc) to be wasted.

Rune Magic: The Dwarven alphabet contains secret letters known only to a learned few divine casters. Practitioners of this magical discipline are known as runecasters, and are only ever found among the dwarven and giant races.

In terms of rules, Rune Magic can be best reflected via the Runist Casting Tradition, but with Wisdom instead of Intelligence as the Key Ability. The Calligrapher’s Supplies tool proficiency can be replaced with others that make sense, such as Smith’s Tools for stone carving. The Glyph Metasphere talent is another necessary component, for it is how runecasters instill their magic into the world. While Diagram Magic and Marking Magic drawbacks may seem appropriate, in the original rules Rune Magic was a feat that allowed an alternative method of casting rather than a primary replacement, so runecasters by canon could still use magic normally like other divine casters.

Circle Magic: The traditions of the Witches of Rashemen and Red Wizards of Thay make use of a collective ritual where auxiliary spellcasters enhance the power of a primary caster or ‘circle leader.’ With their efforts combined they can achieve feats impossible on an individual level.

In 3rd Edition terms Circle Magic allowed the expenditure of spell slots to increase the circle leader’s Caster Level as well as the addition of metamagic feats for casting, taking up to an hour to cast. The closest approximation in the Spheres system is the use of the Flow and Knowledge manabound talents by circle members being used to channel Spell Points and talent capabilities to the circle leader.

Spellfire: This incredibly rare talent is bestowed directly by Mystra to her Chosen and other individuals she feels can best further her aims. People cannot learn Spellfire, and to most mortals it appears to manifest ‘randomly’ as the ability to control and manipulate raw magic.

Spellfire wielders do not have to be technical spellcasters, although it is commonly emulated as a Casting Tradition. The Dispel package of the Universal sphere with the Counterspell talent represents a Spellfire wielder’s ability to absorb incoming magic, with Greater Dispel on top of that to allow them to counter multiple magical assaults at once.

Spellfire can be manifested offensively as a long-range fiery burst, best emulated as the Destruction Sphere with the Fire blast type and Ray blast shape talents. As it is long-range, the Reaching metasphere talent taken 3 times boosts the range from 30 to 300 feet.

Last but not least, Spellfire wielders can convert their power into energy that can heal wounds. As it traditionally applied to hit point damage and not the curing of curses, disease, and revivification, the base Life sphere is enough to simulate this.

Silver Fire, the more powerful and refined use of spellfire by the Chosen of Mystra, is most likely not going to see use in the hands of Player Characters barring high-level campaigns. Silver Fire has a broader variety of processes beyond the base outlined above, including protection from environmental maladies (Protection sphere talents), mental assaults (Mind’s Mind Shield talent), banishing external magical compulsions (Life’s Break Enchantment talent), and great blasts of flame and dispelling cones (Universal’s Widen & Shaped Dispel talents).

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Popular Archetypes

Faerûn’s diverse faiths means that clerics can be as different from each other as from arcane spellcasters and other magical traditions. As such, the sample Divine Petitioner Casting Tradition is hardly a holistic option for clerics, and having custom traditions tailored specifically to the deity is encouraged.

Below are a few kits and prestige classes from former editions with conversion guidelines for the modern spheres system.

Archmage: As a simple term, an Archmage can reflect anyone who knows at least one Advanced Talent with a prerequisite of at least 11th level. This reflects a level of mastery in magical workings most spellcasters cannot hope to learn in their lifetimes. Such people are most often dedicated to the Art to such an extent that “pure mage” classes such as Incanter and Soul Weaver are the most common over hybrid/gish types, although this isn’t always the case; Elminster himself is ridiculously multi-talented!

For the 3.5 Prestige Class proper, the various High Arcana can be simulated by certain talents. Universal’s Reaching and Extreme Reach metasphere talents allow for a high range on all spells, perfect for Arcane Fire (best simulated as Disintegration or another force-damage Destruction blast type) and Arcane Reach. Mastery of Counterspelling can be simulated via the Counterspell talent and Spellthief dispel talent, while Mastery of Shaping is best simulated as the Sculpt metasphere talent combined with the Protection sphere’s Friendship aegis to avoid friendly fire. Mastery of Elements can be simulated by the Energy Shift wild magic talent. Spell Power +1 to +3 is too powerful for a straight conversion, but imposing disadvantage on saving throws via the Overpower Resistance wild magic talent is a good way to simulate this at the expense of some side effects. Finally, Spell-like Ability has no easy conversion, in that the use of material components is now a drawback for Casting Traditions and no longer a necessity. Removing the drawback in some manner via GM permission is the best way, with the trade-off of losing the bonus spell points or boons gained from the drawback.

Bladesinger (multi-edition): Bladesingers are best emulated via the various “gish” classes and subclasses. The Skilled Casting drawback and Aptitude boon focusing on Performance is a common option, as is the Easy Focus boon. Enhancement sphere talents best capable of simulating a Bladesong’s prowess in agility are Physical Enhancement and Speed Control with the Personal Magics variant. The Equipment sphere’s Unarmoured Training or the Protection sphere’s basic aegis can both simulate a Bladesinger’s nimble evasion, while Equipmnent’s Gallowglass Training grants proficiency in a wide variety of blades. The Bulwark talent of the Protection sphere can emulate the damage-reducing Song of Defence.

For the 3rd Edition version’s features, Universal’s Quicken metasphere talent emulates Song of Celerity, while the Time Sphere’s Adjusted Frequency in the use of Haste simulates Song of Fury’s extra attack.

Gnome Artificer/Techsmith (3e): The Equipment sphere’s Renaissance Voyager grants proficiency in firearms and bombs, and said sphere’s Artificer and Craftsman talent allow for faster creation of gear and the handling of unknown devices. Summoner Incanters and Armorist Mageknights are good thematic choices for classes and subclasses. The Artificery and Alchemy Casting Traditions can grant access to the Alchemy or Tinkerer spheres, while the creation of a Gondsman construct is best represented as a Conjuration sphere companion with the Construct (base) talent.

Incantatrix (3e): Emphasis on the Universal sphere, particularly the manabond and metasphere talents, is nigh-essential. Cooperative Metamagic is best expressed as granting said metasphere talents to others via the Knowledge manabound talent, while Glyph is good at simulating Metamagic Spell Trigger, and Snatch Spell is best simulated by the Soulmate manabond talent.

Purple Dragon Knight (multi-edition): The Knight martial tradition with the Warleader sphere option is highly appropriate, as is the Commander class. For the 5th Edition version, Shout talents are preferred over tactics, particularly Rallying Speech and Rousing Claxon for morale-boosting, and the Leadership sphere’s Improved Leadership talent for the proficiency doubling on Persuasion checks. The tactics talents of Coordinated Reflexes, Fortifying Phalanx, and Militant Will are the best at emulating the “ally rerolls a saving throw” of Bulwark. Inspiring Surge is best emulated via the Commander class’ Direct Ally class feature.

For the 3rd Edition prestige class abilities, the Frightful Roar shout emulates the Fear ability, and the Guardian sphere’s basic challenge package emulates the Oath of Wrath quite well. The Courier’s Dash tactic talent represents the speed enhancement of Rallying Cry, and the Shieldbrothers tactic emulates Heroic Shield. Other features of the prestige class can be emulated via the earlier 5th Edition suggestions.

Sun Soul Monk (multi-edition): The Ascetic Martial Tradition is an ideal choice given its granting of the Equipment sphere’s Unarmed and Unarmored Training talents, although any talents that grant Unarmored Training and a bonus Equipment sphere choice can be just as feasible if Unarmed Training is taken. For 5th Edition, the Destruction sphere with blast type talents that deal fire and radiant damage along the Ray and Sculpt blast shapes emulate Radiant Sun Bolt and Searing Arc Strike. Searing Sunburst can be emulated via the Explosive Orb blast shape and the Reaching metasphere talent, while Sun Shield can be emulated via the Retribution blast shape. The Light sphere and its damaging effects (particularly Flare and Searing Light) are also appropriate thematically even if not a straight conversion.

The Sun Soul Monk’s 3rd Edition options are best emulated by the Light sphere and paradoxically by the Dark sphere’s basic meld talent of Darkvision. The Blade blast shape to infuse one’s melee attacks with fire and light much like Flaming Fists. The “classic monk” abilities of Abundant Step and Tongue of the Sun and Moon can be replicated by the Warp sphere and the Fate sphere’s Logos consecration talent respectively.

Sword-Dancer (3e): A class with Blended Training or with equal access to magical and martial spheres is ideal. The Equipment sphere’s Gallowglass Training and Unarmoured Training best simulate the nimble swordswoman archetype. The Athletics sphere’s Mobility and Rapid Motion talents emulate the ability to easily maneuver through enemy spaces. The Enhancement Sphere’s Animate Objects emulates the “dancing sword” abilities, and Enhance Equipment is reflective of the magical bonding process where they attune to a signature sword. Last but not least, the Light Sphere and Dancing Lights talent emulates their ability to conjure motes of moonlight.

Swordmage (4e): I will confess that I am not well-read in 4th Edition, so this may be not as faithful in conversion. From what I’ve read, the Mageknight class fits this to a T. The Warp sphere is a good emulation of the class’ summoning, with Emergency Teleport’s reaction-based trigger a good means of countering enemy actions. The Destruction sphere’s various secondary effects combined with the Blade blast shape talent is a good means of simulating the various special attack spells. Defensive-minded spells are best simulated via the Protection sphere. Swordmages who derive their spells from a primordial source are best reflected by the Weather sphere, particularly shroud talents and the Backlash and Hostile mantle talents.

War Wizard of Cormyr (multi-edition): Investment in the Destruction sphere and Universal sphere’s Widen metasphere talent reflects the War Wizard’s world-famous battle magic. The fact that they’re more likely to be frontline combatants means that the Easy Focus boon for Casting Traditions is a common choice. Elementalists of various stripes and Spellblade Mageknights are ideal class and subclass choices.
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Spheres of the Lance: the Spheres System for Dragonlance

A world rent asunder, abandoned by the gods. The rise of a dark empire and dragon-mounted knights on both sides. This is the world of Krynn, where the harried forces of Good prevailed over Evil at great cost thanks to the return of the gods and the discovery of the fabled Dragonlances.

Major Traditions: Magic in Krynn is divided between divine magic, granted by the gods directly (clericism) or empowered by faith in oneself and the soul (mysticism), and sorcery which is either powered by the three moons (High Sorcery) and studied or an innate aspect of one’s being (Primal Sorcery). As of the Age of Despair, Primal Sorcery is only possessed by dragons, fey, and other innately magical beings and out of the hands of typical PC races. After Chaos’ unleashing into the world, primal sorcerers and mystics start springing up among mortals. Casting Traditions should be in line with these aspects.

Before the unleashing of Chaos into the world, mortal magic had to come from the gods either as divine magic or wizardry, and thus had to spend prayer or research in choosing what spells to be gifted every day. Additionally, commonly required specific combinations of words, gestures, and in some cases materials in order to use. Prepared Caster, Somatic Casting, and Verbal Casting are extremely common drawbacks for casting traditions.

Notably, healing magic was the sole province of divine spellcasters. Arcanists who attempted to emulate such miracles often did so at a price, such as draining the life force from another soul. The Life sphere and ‘no strings attached’ magical healing should be similarly restricted.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Barring a few notable exceptions, the world of Krynn is more down to earth than other campaign settings. The most powerful mages and warriors were often from the long-dead Age of Might or significant figures often acting behind the scenes such as the Masters of the Orders of High Sorcery or Emperor Ariakas of the Dragonarmies. The Heroes of the Lance and other figures of the novels were capable adventurers but not oft-possessed of world-breaking powers, Raistlin excepted.

Even so, Advanced and Legendary talents may be allowed depending on how unique the PCs are in the grand scheme of things. Raistlin’s power made him a threat even to the gods, and the modules suggested for Goldmoon to use her newly-granted powers to resurrect a PC that may have been killed by a dragon’s acidic breath weapon in the first adventure. Characters with such talents most certainly exist, but are often important figures destined to shape the history of Krynn.

Technology Level: The majority of Ansalon is pre-Industrial, with the notable exception of the gnomes of Mount Nevermind who effectively have access to technology far beyond that of everyone else. Renaissance, Modern, and even Futuristic Technology can be found among Mount Nevermind’s experimental labs and guilds, albeit of dubious reliability in gnomish hands and almost incomprehensible to other races.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Dragon Riding: The setting’s major claim to fame was the romantic ideal of heroes astride majestic winged beasts, jousting with polearm and fiery breath in aerial dogfights against other dragons and their riders. Any Dragonlance campaign worth its salt will give characters this opportunity.

A PC who wishes to be a dragonrider is best off making use of the Conjuration sphere, with the Dragon base form and the Altered Size talent taken at least twice to ensure a rideable mount. Aerial Creature is necessary in granting them a fly speed, as is Draconic Creature for that classic breath weapon. One of these is granted automatically with the Dragon base form, so taking the other costs just 1 talent slot. Further talents can be added based on the dragon’s species and capabilities.

But what of characters who do not wish to be a spherecaster? Well then things get a bit harder. Beastmastery is only applicable to unintelligent creatures, and Leadership’s sidekick rules specify a stat block of CR ½ or less, and true dragons most certainly do not count! So let’s make a new legendary talent for just that purpose!

Dragon Friend (sidekick)
Prerequisites: Leadership sphere (sidekick package), 5th level.

You learn the Draconic language if you don’t already know it. Additionally in lieu of a normal sidekick you may gain a dragon companion. The dragon uses the stats of a Dragon base form via the Conjuration sphere talent, save that it is Large size, can also speak and understand the languages you speak, and can act independently of your actions in combat. Additional talents may be spent on this sphere to apply Conjuration sphere talents to the dragon.

At 9th, 13th, and 17th level the dragon adds +2 to its Strength score (maximum 20), and at 9th and 13th it also grows an additional size category.

Design Notes: I have yet to playtest it, but I wanted something in line with the Conjuration sphere’s Draconic base talent while also understanding that in comparison to a Leadership sidekick they may have less versatility, talents, and hit points. Thus my decision to grant it size and strength increases when the PC gains a proficiency bonus, as well as independent actions in combat. As I presume the dragon will be used as a flying mount this seemed like a good way of allowing PCs to be dragonriders without having a potential overpowered companion tagging along.

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Moon Magic: In the world of Krynn, wizards who join one of the three Orders become attuned to their patron moon, their power affected by its phases.

During the High Sanction phase of their patron moon, Wizards of High Sorcery gain advantage on spell attack rolls and impose disadvantage on opposed attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws to resist the magic of their Order-chosen spheres (see Wizards of High Sorcery under Popular Archetypes). During Low Sanction the opposite occurs, where they suffer disadvantage on spell attack rolls and targets gain advantage on rolls to resist their magic.

The exception to the above is when at least two moons’ phases are in conjunction, in which case Wizards of the appropriate Order treat their moon as being in High Sanction. During the momentous event of the Night of the Eye (occurs only once every 504 days), wizards of all Orders are empowered. In addition to the former benefits they gain a number of bonus Spell Points equal to their proficiency bonus.

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Popular Archetypes

Gnomish Inventors: Much of what has been said for Gnomish Artificers/Techsmiths in the Forgotten Realms post can be applied here. However, gnomish artisanship is explicitly nonmagical and often bulky and unpredictable, so Krynnish gnomes are more likely to be Armigers, Artisans with the Technician subclass, Conscripts with the Mechanic subclass, and Scholars. For those who wish to go with a spherecasting class, the Wild Magic drawback is reflective of gnomish technology’s unpredictable effects.

Knights of Solamnia: The three Orders of Knighthood and their skills are altered slightly based on whether or not the campaign is set in an era where the gods returned to Krynn. This matters more for the Knights of the Sword and Rose, as the Knights of the Crown don’t gain spellcasting by default. All three Orders are well-reflected by the Knight Martial Tradition or any that grant appropriate proficiencies in knightly gear: armor, blades, polearms, mounted combat, and morale-boosting.

Knights of the Crown focus on obedience and loyalty. Proficiency in Wisdom saving throws is quite common to ensure they don’t fall victim to charm and fear effects. The Guardian sphere’s resilience talents are appropriate, particularly Cold Iron Call and Durable which can delay the onset of negative effects. The Berserker sphere’s Deathless talent and Guardian’s Indomitable Advanced Talent can prevent an early death and/or unconsciousness.

Knights of the Sword embody courage and faithfulness and are quite commonly warrior-priests. Classwise they are most commonly Paladin Spherecasters with the Divine Petitioner or Divine Crusader Casting Traditions. They’re most known for their magical talents and given that they are commonly promoted from ranks of the Crown they often share the same martial talents. For magical talents they most commonly have spells of the Enhancement and Light spheres, and Destruction sphere talents which deal radiant damage. Unfortunately they don’t have much to make them stand out non-magically, meaning that in eras absent of the gods they are the hardest-hit of the orders.

Knights of the Rose are the highest tier of the orders, almost always in vaunted leadership positions. Like Knights of the Sword they are spellcasters, but derive their magic from Paladine. They are more likely to have talents from the Leadership and Warleader spheres, focusing on ones that grant boons to their allies. They can be represented via the Commander class, particularly during eras where the gods abandoned Krynn, but otherwise are best emulated via the Paladin Spherecaster.

Knights of Takhisis/Neraka: Specific to the Age of Mortals, the Knights of Takhisis are the Knights Solamnia’s evil counterpart, pledged to the Dark Queen and then to their country after her death. Much like Solamnia they have similar Martial Traditions, emphasizing armor and heavy weapons. The major difference is that they aren’t necessarily pledged to the gods, and thus most of them are Mystics and Primal Sorcerers (see below). Additionally they are more focused on demoralizing enemies than rallying their own forces, represented as the Gladiator sphere’s various demoralize and fear talents. Knights of the Skull are spellcasters who make for skilled ambassadors and secret police, while the Knights of the Thorn are seers without peer. Both orders’ aptitudes are reflective of the Divination sphere’s various talents, especially Detect Thoughts for Skull, while Augury and the Advanced Talents of Read Omens and Delve for Knowledge for Thorn.

Mysticism: Also known as the Power of the Heart, mysticism is a form of primal magic powered by an individual’s soul and faith in oneself. The Citadel of Light, the most renowned academy of mysticism, divides common types of mysticism into (conveniently) spheres. Spheres that enhance and manipulate other creatures and material are the most common, such as the Alteration, Creation, Enhancement, Life, Mind, and Nature spheres. But Mystics who are “sensitives” have the Divination sphere with the Limited Divination (divine) variant, specializing in reading the auras of others. Some mystics can manipulate dead bodies and spirits, representing the Death sphere.

Primal Sorcerers: Also known as Wild Sorcery, this is a caster’s natural talent in shaping the elemental building blocks of creation. Although it comes naturally to people and is commonly possessed by all manner of ‘natural spellcasters’ such as dragons and fey, the Academy of Sorcery in the Fifth Age managed to divide the magic into various schools.

Primal Sorcerers are most commonly Elementalists, preferring the Destruction, Nature, and Weather spheres, although Conjuration, Enhancement, and Illusion are also recognized schools. They ‘cast spontaneously,’ representing the lack of the Prepared Caster drawback of god and moon-granted magic. Their most common Casting Traditions are Natural and Sorcerous Blood.

Wizards of High Sorcery: Dragonlance’s wizards are very much the prototypical D&D spellcasters, and easily reflected with both the Traditional Magic Casting Tradition, but with the Ritualist and/or Spellbook boons. The above rules for Moon Magic are for those formally pledged to one of the three Orders.

Wizards in Dragonlance are incredibly versatile and their class, subclass, and sphere choice can vary wildly. For members of the Orders of High Sorcery, they may choose one sphere to be their favored sphere, whose overall power corresponds to the phases of the relevant moon. The spheres favored by White Robes include Divination, Fate, Protection, & Universal. Red Robes favor Alteration, Enhancement, Illusion, Nature, Telekinesis, Time, and Weather. Black Robes favor Enhancement, Death, Life, and Mind.

Furthermore, Wizards of High Sorcery gain access to safehouses, resources, and the goodwill of their Order. This can be expressed in making an exception by allowing them access to the Leadership sphere as though they had Blended Training, gaining allies and apprentices in the form of Sidekicks and Followers. In such a case the only allowable Sidekick class is Spherecaster, whose Casting Tradition and spheres are in line with the PC’s order.
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Spheres of the Mists: the Spheres System for Ravenloft

A world that obeys not the laws of nature, but the tortured whims of malevolent entities and their godlike captors. Those unlucky enough to be claimed by the Mists need to use every bit of skill and wit at their disposal to survive in this world of monsters and fell magic.

Major Traditions: The Demiplane of Dread has claimed entire lands and civilizations from a myriad of worlds, a milieu of cultures and lost histories that point at unknown legacies. Hunter-gatherer tamers of beasts, musketeers in tri-coned hats, and medieval knights on horseback can all be found within the Mists’ shrouded worlds to some degree.

The same applies to magic, although the tainted influence of the Dark Powers means that the supernatural is often a rare and subtle art. Traditions that point to ‘dark fantasy’ influences and come at a price such as Added and Blood Magic are more common than in other settings, while paladins and high priests of good-aligned deities are as rare as hen’s teeth given they eventually draw the baleful eyes of a domain’s Darklord.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Ravenloft is a lower-power setting, one where the heroes often face overwhelming odds and cannot easily rely upon miraculous wonders with no strings attached. Advanced and Legendary Talents, particularly those with a prerequisite of 11th level and higher, are often unsuitable in the hands of PCs.

But instead of a blanket ban, the DM should look over particular talents in the relevant spheres possessed by the PCs, and ask themselves the following: “Can this talent effortlessly bypass certain elements in the adventure, particularly those necessary for maintaining a sense of horror?” Beyond this, talents which ignore the setting limitations under New Rules & Subsystems, such as Warp’s Planeshift, should be banned, although even high-level talents can still have a place in gothic horror. Scrying is a common spell in horror and folkloric stories, while Creation’s Fleshcraft is thematically appropriate for characters seeking to push the boundaries of the humanoid body into uncharted (and potentially dangerous) territory

Technology Level: In pre-5th Edition the Ravenloft setting divided domains into Cultural Levels, a comparison of the land’s technological prowess compared to real-world timelines. The majority of domains are medieval, although lands ranging from the Stone Age to Victorian Times have been possibilities. No known domains have reached a truly “modern” or futuristic age. And of those exceptions, such as the alien workings of Bluetspur’s illithids, have been more or less monstrous realms whose inventions are unfathomable to mortal safety and sanity.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Note: Although 2nd and 3rd Edition are very different ruleswise, the latter tried to be faithful in converting material to the D20 System. Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is notably a lot more free-wheeling and rules-lite, where things such as altered magic and Cultural Levels are more or less gone. In the discussion of rules, “classic” refers to 2nd/3rd Edition versions of the setting, while “5e” refers to the latest version.

Altered Magic (classic): The Dark Powers have a vested interest in making magic of a dark and morally dubious nature more tempting to spellcasters, while those that allow for easy travel and the vanquishing of aforementioned dark magic are heavily restrained. Instead of going over every individual sphere and talent, a set of rules discuss how certain forms of magic are changed or even unavailable.

Summoning and Banishing: Summoning-related magic that calls and banishes entities from other planes only function normally as a one-way into Ravenloft, and such creatures often resent such imprisonment. Conjured companions are more likely to be those already bound to the Demiplane of Dread, such as ghostly haunts, spirits of the land or Mists, manifestations of the caster’s subconscious, beings already physically present heeding the spell’s call, and the like. Talents which can banish a creature to another plane of existence are equally fruitless.
Travel: Spells which allow for extradimensional travel cannot leave the Demiplane of Dread proper or cross through domain borders closed by a Darklord. Basically if the start and endpoint are still within Ravenloft proper, the talent can work as usual. Coterminous planes such as ethereal travel are an exception in that it works normally, but further travel into the Deep Ethereal cannot work. “Pocket dimensions” such as the Dark sphere’s Shadow Stash, Warp sphere’s Extradimensional Room, and Warp sphere’s Extradimensional Storage are allowed and are still technically within Ravenloft’s planar fabric.
Alignment Detection: Divination magic cannot detect alignment on the good/evil axis, although lawful/chaotic still works. Magical detection of an indirect fashion, such as Fate sphere’s Divine Force, still works normally.
General Divination: Undead are better capable of concealing their natures, and are always allowed a saving throw vs the Sphere DC against Divination sphere talents that would reveal their true nature. Furthermore, the Scrying advanced talent manifests a ghostly version of the caster’s relevant sensory organ. This can be detected via an opposed Perception/Stealth roll with the scryer having advantage on the check. The organ makes them vulnerable to sensory effects performed in the sensor’s area of influence, such as gaze attacks for visual senses, thunder damage for auditory senses, etc.
Divine Communion: Spells which allow the caster to petition a deity or similar being of power can be intercepted by the Dark Powers. Relevant rolls for information-gathering should be made by the GM in secret, and on the result of a failed check give a misleading result rather than a silent/“no result” one.
Shadow Magic: Spells that make use of shadow are stronger than usual in Ravenloft. PC spherecasters specializing in such magic (and not just dabblers who want a free talent!) may be given a bonus talent in reflection of this, typically of the Dark or Illusion spheres. The Shadow Creature form talent for Conjuration, the Beshadowed/Ink/Shadow blast types for Destruction, the Detect Shadows divine talent for Divination, and the Shadow Cage dual sphere talent for Universal are also appropriate choices.
Necromancy: It is easier to create undead creatures but harder to control them in Ravenloft. Casters with the Death sphere can have a total number of reanimated creatures equal to double their proficiency bonus. This comes at a price: undead created beyond the caster’s normal proficiency bonus will not only persist when the spell’s duration ends, they end up outside the caster’s control. In some cases they can end up under the Darklord’s control!
Challenging the Darklord’s Will: PCs who make use of talents that affect a spell or supernatural effect created by a domain’s Darklord (such as foul weather, curses, etc) must succeed at a spellcasting ability check vs. the DC of the effect, even if the talent normally has an auto-success. Such a check is made with disadvantage. In cases that involve bypassing closed domain borders, the check automatically fails.

Cultural Level (classic): In most cases the Cultural Level of a domain is more a set of guidelines than hard and fast rules for determining starting equipment and proficiencies. PCs are by nature exceptional individuals, and there’s a limited amount of trade between domains allowing travelers and people of means to obtain items that would otherwise be beyond their homeland’s meager resources.

But in a few cases some backstory justification is heavily encouraged. A “mad scientist” style PC in a Medieval domain whose devices come to him in fevered dreams can have Tinkerer sphere talents, but a Barovian peasant whose family is just getting by is a harder sell. At least not without a patron willing to supply them the necessary gear and training!

PCs from realms of a Chivalric or Renaissance Cultural Level are proficient with Renaissance-era firearms if they’d be proficient with all martial weapons, effectively possessing the Renaissance Voyager discipline talent from the Equipment sphere. In the case of beginning play with a martial tradition, said discipline talent may be taken as though it was a regular (non-legendary) talent.

Curses (classic/5e): The curse rules found in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft are open-ended and thematic enough to be used in a Spheres game relatively seamlessly. But the Spheres system also introduces many spells that have their own category as the [curse] descriptor. Spherecasters who possess such spells are capable of pronouncing their doom upon creatures with their dying breaths.

Should a spherecaster suffer instant death upon dropping to 0 hit points or fail their third death saving throw, they may choose to cast a talent with the [curse] tag as a reaction against the creature who brought about their end. The target suffers disadvantage on any relevant ability checks and saving throws to resist, and for non-instantaneous effects the duration becomes permanent. Once cast in such a way the caster seals their fate, becoming permanently dead and unable to be restored to life. They may come back as undead, with their nature tied to the curse in some way.

Soothing the Mind (5e): Certain sphere effects can be used to reduce a target’s Stress Score as defined in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. The Life Sphere’s Restore Mind talent can reduce a target’s Stress Score by 1, while Restore Mind & Body reduces it to 0. Appropriate charm talents of the Mind sphere (Amnesia, Calm, etc) can suppress the effects of the Stress score for the duration of the talent.

Tarokka: This set of mystical cards is famous for determining the fate of the heroes and villains of Ravenloft. Those learned in its ways can find inspiration in the card’s readings, deriving magical power from them.

The use of the Tarokka Deck can take many forms in the Spheres system. One suggestion is to make it a Casting Tradition, like so:

Tarokka Reader

Spellcasters who rely on the Tarokka Deck entrust their power to fate, understanding that some things are beyond their control. Still, there is power to be found in this mindset, for knowledge learned from such inevitability can be used to guide mortals in the here and now.

Bonus Spell Points: None
Key Ability: Wisdom
Bonus Magic Talents: Divination, Fate
Drawbacks: Focus Casting (Gaming Set Tools-Tarokka Deck), Mental Focus, Prepared Caster, Skilled Casting (Gaming Set Tools-Tarokka Deck)
Variants: None
Boons: Aptitude (Gaming Set Tools-Tarokka Deck), Heart of the Cards (see below)
Granted Items: Gaming Set (Tarokka Deck)

New Boon: Heart of the Cards

Your magical potential is bound up in the Tarokka, its whims bestowing you with random gifts.

At the end of a long rest, you roll a 1d20, reflecting the consultation of the Tarokka deck. You gain that Motif talent from the Fate sphere as a bonus talent until the next long rest. If you roll a Motif you already know, then its duration increases by 1 step (4 hours typically).

Die ResultMotif Talent
1The Chariot
2The Devil
3The Emperor
4The Empress
5The Fool
6The Hanged Man
7The Hermit
8The Hierophant
9Judgment
10Justice
11The Lovers
12The Magician
13The Moon
14The Star
15Strength
16Sun
17Temperance
18The Tower
19The Wheel
20The World


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Popular Archetypes

Anchorite: Anchorites are priests who serve the church of Ezra. They are invariably spherecasters, although how their spells manifest differs. Common spheres of the goddess include Divination, Life, Mind, and Protection. Each major denomination has a bonus sphere relevant to their religious interpretation: Destruction for the Lawful Evil (Nevuchar Springs) sect, Light for the Lawful Good (Mordant) sect, Universal (wild magic package) for the Neutral (Dementlieu) sect, and Weather for the Lawful Neutral (Borca) sect. Anchorites are also capable of turning the undead, which can be reflected as the Priest subclass of the Incanter.

Anchorites have an all-or-nothing approach to armor, either only wearing the heaviest kinds of armor reflecting their image as defenders of the common folk, or trusting solely in Ezra to protect them and thus wear no armor at all. The Evangelist or Shield of Faith Martial Tradition where Armor Training is taken as the bonus variable talent is sufficient enough to grant heavy armor proficiency for classes that begin with proficiency in light armor. Alternatively the Hermit Tradition has Ascetic and Weapon Master which both grant Unarmored Training while also having some religious flavor text.

The Anchorite’s Mistwalking talent can be reflected as the Warp sphere, with True Teleport at higher levels, and perhaps unique to Anchorites given their special connection with Ezra. Shield of Ezra manifests differently depending on the sect, albeit is almost always some variety of Protection sphere effect: Exclusion (usually against metal) for the Lawful Good (Mordant) sect, Inner Peace or the Mind sphere’s Mind Shield for the Lawful Evil (Nevuchar Springs) sect, Obstruction for the Lawful Neutral (Borca) sect, and Spell Ward for the True Neutral (Dementlieu) sect.

3rd Edition gave additional abilities as well as the division of the Anchorite into three prestige classes: Anchorite Inquisitor and Anchorite Wanderer in Heroes of Light, and Anchorite of the Mists in Van Richten’s Arsenal. The Inquisitor’s Candle Communication (where two priests communicate via magical lit candles) can be replicated via the Mind sphere’s Greater Communication advanced talent, while its various immunities can be simulated as the aforementioned Mind Shield and Spell Ward talents, and True Seeing has a Divination sense talent of the same name. As for the Anchorite Wanderer, the class is more physically inclined, particularly in the mobility department. Athletics sphere talents, especially Rapid Motion and Swift Movement, are common, while Absolution can be replicated by the Fate sphere’s Atonement advanced talent. Wanderers choosing to wear heavy armor often take the Equipment sphere’s Armor Expert twice to allow for faster donning and stealth in such gear.

Anchorites of the Mists rely upon using the misdirection of the Mists to cloud their opponent’s minds, often manifesting as the Illusion sphere, the Mind sphere’s Confusion talent, and the Warp sphere’s ability to teleport. The Divination sphere’s Blindfolded Oracle and Scout’s Sight Beyond Sight can replicate the class’ blind-fighting abilities.

Arcanist: Arcanists are a specialized discipline of wizards who delve into arts that are regarded as occult and macabre by other spellcasters. No matter their alignment, all study forbidden lore such as necromancy and pacts with strange entities, although their motivations for doing so differ.

Arcanists are best simulated with the Traditional Magic Casting Tradition, specializing in the Conjuration, Death, and Life spheres and subclasses which enhance such spheres. Their general-purpose knowledge of various “dark magic” can be reflected as being proficient in various Intelligence skills, especially Arcana, History, and Religion. The Incanter’s Priest subclass is appropriate, even if the arcanists technically aren’t clerics of a god, and the Necromancer and Summoner subclasses are also common choices. The Soul Weaver’s the other common class, often following the Path of the Gothi or Path of the White Necromancer subclasses, with Gothi’s proficiency addition/doubling to Intelligence checks being highly appropriate for them being knowledgeable sorts. Path of the Lichling represents those who seek to become free-willed undead.

Avenger: These driven warriors are motivated by a burning desire for revenge. Their ability to push onwards for this goal is best emulated via the Berserker sphere’s more defensive-minded talents, such as the Berserk adrenaline talent and the Deathless talent. Their Intuition in knowing the direction to head in achieving such vengeance may be replicated via the Scout’s Track the Scene talent, the Scholar’s Dowing Study, or the Scholar Occultist subclass’ Esotery of Divination.

Bardic College of Spirits: The Bard Spherecaster with this subclass works quite well. Most of its class features are more or less independent from Vancian magic and can be used relatively unhindered, but some conversion is necessary. Guiding Whispers can be reflected as gaining the Mind sphere’s Inspiration talent as a bonus talent. The Spiritual Focus’ 6th-level feature applies the d6 to a sphere effect that deals damage or restores hit points. For Spirit Session, the Bard gains a bonus talent from either the Death or Divination sphere.

Eremite/Hallowed Witch: Devotees of Hala and witches of the less religious sort, these spellcasters prefer to imbue their magic in otherwise mundane objects. This is best simulated as a Casting Tradition with the Material Casting drawback and Physical Magic boon. Those with access to Blended Training and thus martial sphere talents commonly take the Alchemy sphere and the Witch Martial Tradition for obvious reasons.

Knight of the Shadows: Hailing from the Shadowlands, this honorable order was founded by the noble Shadowborn clan. Very much bastions of virtue in an otherwise dreary land, they often find themselves worn down by the pressures of their ideals and vocations. The best among their lot stay true to their cause, even as their bodies and minds slowly fray.

The archetype is best reflected via the Guardian sphere, given their role as protectors of the innocent from evil. They are also spellcasters of the divine sort, commonly of the Divine Crusader Casting Tradition, and thus belong to classes that have Blended Training. They aren’t particularly potent in their spellcasting, so they tend to be dabblers in the magical arts at most.

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Monster Hunter: Less a direct class conversion and more a variety of suggestions, Ravenloft’s monster hunters are a diverse bunch of people who pursue vocations that mark them as madmen by others. The Scout sphere is perhaps the most common martial sphere among this profession, for it is unmatched in the granting of knowledge and lore of foes. The Target Weakness talent grants them a limited amount of tools to overcome monstrous defenses, while Discern Illusions, Heightened Awareness, and Sense and Resist Scrying are common options for “witch-hunters.” Talents which reduce the chances of ambush such as Piercing Senses, Sight Beyond Sight, and Somnambulance are also common talents. Alchemy is another favored sphere option, both for offensive purposes such as the Holy Water formula talent and various poison talents, and overcoming supernatural maladies with Panacea, Salve, and Smelling salt formula talents.

Monster hunters in the vein of Rudolf Van Richten and other “brains over brawn” noncasters are most commonly of the Scholar class, usually either Natural Philosophers or Occultists. The former subclass grants various features useful to a monster hunter: the Belladonna and Salt material impositions are specifically defensive against certain monster types and attacks.

Spiritualists: These more benevolent kinds of death mages prefer to treat ghosts and other undead with respect, viewing them as wounded souls in need of aid in passing on. They are not necromancers, for they do not seek to dominate such souls.

Spiritualists are most commonly Soul Weavers of either the Gothi or White Necromancer subclasses. They often specialize in abilities to ensure a spirit’s proper passage, such as the Death sphere’s Gravetongue talent, the Life sphere’s Break Enchantment talent, and the Fate sphere’s Exorcise talent. Undead allies are incorporeal spirits and thus can be reflected either as Conjuration companions manifesting when ‘called,’ or have the Death sphere’s Incorporeal talent applied to a Reanimated undead. The Death sphere’s Summon Spirit Advanced Talent is another good choice.

Undead Warlock Patron: The Warlock Spherecaster subclass works well enough. For Expanded Spells, the bonus talents most appropriate are the Conjuration sphere (Phantom Steed), the Death sphere’s Gravetongue talent (Speak with Dead), the Illusion sphere (Phantasmal Force), the Life sphere (False Life), the Illusion sphere’s Obscure talent (Greater Invisibility), Protection sphere’s Deathless talent (Death Ward), the Protection sphere’s Exclusion talent (Antilife Shell), and the Destruction sphere with the Poison blast type and the Sphere blast shape (Cloudkill).

The 14th-level Spirit Projection’s feature where it waives verbal, somatic, and material components is a bit trickier, as spherecasters generally can’t avoid their Casting Tradition drawbacks without retraining and thus losing boons and bonus spell points. One suggestion would be to have it provide a bonus Casting Tradition boon that only lasts in spirit form. Or simply waive it; this class feature gets a lot of other benefits as is!
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Dark Spheres: the Spheres System for Dark Sun

Athas was once a lush green world brimming with life, but magic and warfare warped the land into so much dry dust. Violence is a way of life in the Tablelands, and invokers of the supernatural derive their powers from the land itself, the fell Dragon-Kings, or their own minds.

Major Traditions: Dark Sun is a scorched land where metal is scarce, so traditions emphasizing light and unarmored forms of defense are more common. Equipment in other settings made out of metal such as swords and axes are still available, but made out of stone, bone, obsidian, and wood. Bows, crossbows, spears, slings, whips, and clubs are the most common weapon proficiencies, so traditions focusing on those are preferred by many warriors.

As for armor, Athas has adapted to using non-metal alternatives, so in most cases such armor remains unchanged. The exceptions are chain shirts, chainmail, splint, and half and full plate armor, which have to be made with metal and are prohibitively expensive, rare, and impractical. As this more or less closes off the bulk of heavy armor, any martial tradition that would grant Armor Training twice (or move a character to heavy armor proficiency) can opt instead to replace the second talent with some other defensive talent. Armor Expert, Einhander, Unarmored Training, Versatile Shield, and the Shield sphere are all appropriate choices.

Edit: wellis of RPGnet pointed out that the 4th Edition conversion of Dark Sun had non-metal heavy armors. Chainmail is replaced with bone/horn/wood-stupped leather jacks made from kank and cyclops body parts, while plate armor is made from the chitin of insects, crustaceans, braxats, gaj, and even drakes. Such armor is designed to be worn in hot climates so it does not impose disadvantage on Constitution saving throws to resist exhaustion.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Dark Sun’s harsh ways make characters more powerful than usual out of necessity. Arcane magic is most responsible for the world’s state of affairs, the Sorcerer-Kings possess magic and psionic powers lost to the ages, and defiler wizards find it all too tempting to achieve feats of eldritch might at the cost of further killing the planet. Advanced and Legendary Talents certainly fit the world of Athas. Most such talents that are in line with spells and psionic powers from AD&D can fit, provided they don’t contradict the base magic and technological assumptions (see New Rules & Subsystems).

Technology Level: Dark Sun is more primitive than the typical medieval setting. Beyond what is mentioned under Major Traditions, a lot of gear is recycled and piecemeal, and beasts of burden are the most common means of transportation. There are devices in Athas that are rare in other settings, such as skimmers capable of sailing upon the Sea of Silt and wind-powered wheeled sand skiffs which travel easily across wide open terrain.

The Tinkerer sphere’s accessories and gadgets can range from devices which can be easily reflavored from local materials such as the Suit Improvement talent, to ones which can only be the result of lost wonders from prior Ages such as Recording Gadgets. Certain talents from this sphere may be restricted depending upon the PC backstory and DM’s judgment.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Wild Talent: Just about every person in Athas has some degree of minor psionic skill. In the original rules they rolled randomly for 1 (or a lucky 2-3) psionic powers, but anything more powerful than that necessitated a proper psionic class.

In the Spheres system this can be emulated via granting every PC a psionically-themed bonus feat. For the spheres system proper the granting of the Magical Training feat for non-spherecasters to simulate a psionic casting tradition works well enough. But for spherecasters the spheres system unfortunately doesn’t have options for “multi-tradition” builds, which means that their powers must be in line with the drawbacks and boons of their proper spherecasting class. In such a case, Extra Magic Talents or Magical Expertise are feats that can let the PC gain access to an otherwise unthematic sphere/talent, representing a psionic origin rather than a traditional arcane/divine one. Otherwise, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has some feats that grant the use of a minor spell or two per long rest, such as Fey Touched, Telekinetic, and Telepathic.

Non-Metal Weapons: Weapons made out of non-metal material are more apt to break. When used against a creature with resistance or immunity to the weapon’s damage type or material, said weapon has a cumulative 5% chance of breaking per attack. A broken weapon deals the minimal amount of damage if it can still conceivably still be used to injure; otherwise it’s useless.

Weapons made out of metal cost ten times the normal amount they’d be in other settings.

Rare Terrain: Much of Athas is hot and arid, and the few exceptions are small and isolated regions. Barring campaigns set predominantly in such places, it’s fair to say that most Dark Sun campaigns will be in desert-like environs. Additionally, iron, steel, and metal in general are extremely scarce.

Any talent or effect which creates water can never be of instantaneous or permanent duration. In such a case the duration becomes 24 hours. The Metal geomancy package’s Recover Ore ability can only work a number of times per long rest equal to the spherecaster’s proficiency bonus. Once this limit is reached, the area is temporarily tapped out of resources.

Sphere talents reliant upon certain terrain for their effects are less optimal choices, and thus not as valuable as others. One solution would be that PCs at character creation gain one bonus talent for an otherwise sub-optimal sphere package/talent choice. Nature’s metal, plant, and water geomancy packages qualify, as do the Weather sphere’s shroud and mantle talents reliant upon cold and precipitation conditions.

Another option is presenting a new, if rather macabre, talent has been made for Nature sphere users with the metal and water geomancy packages:

Blood Mastery (geomancy, metal, water)

Augment 0 sp: Whenever a metal or water package ability would require water or metal, you can instead use blood to fill that requirement.

Augment 0 sp: You can use blood siphon on a creature or corpse containing blood within range to supply the required blood for the effect you are augmenting. Generally speaking, a living creature can supply enough material necessary for a space or object two size categories smaller than their own size. Exsanguinating a non-undead corpse can supply material one size category smaller.

You gain the following geomancy abilities.

Blood Siphon
Target:
one creature containing blood.

(requires a living creature containing blood) You can telekinetically drain a target of blood within range, dealing 1d8 necrotic damage and making the target suffer 1 level of exhaustion (max 1 level of exhaustion per creature) on a failed Constitution saving throw. A successful Constitution saving throw halves this damage and avoids the exhaustion. The damage increases by 1d8 at 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).

Mounting Wounds
Cost:
2 sp

(concentration, requires a bleeding creature) You can cause a bleeding creature within range to heal less efficiently. They take 1d8 additional damage from any piercing or slashing damage attacks done to them, and any healing effects restore only half the usual number of hit points (rounded down).

Red Mist
Area:
10-foot square
Cost: 1 sp

(concentration, requires a bleeding creature) As the water geomancy package’s fog ability, save that those within the area of effect suffer disadvantage on saving throws vs the frightened condition, the Confusion spell and Confusion charm sphere talent, and similar effects that bestow distracting negative emotional effects.

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Popular Archetypes

Bards: Bards on Athas do not have knowledge in spells, instead specializing in poison and with more thief-like abilities. The Guild Trained Martial Tradition is the best fit in granting access to the Alchemy and Scoundrel spheres, and for the former they invariably pick poison talents. Talents which can alter the form of poisons, such as Contact Poison Delivery and Gaseous Application, are eventually picked up, especially at higher levels. Those which increase the speed and reliability of delivery such as Quick Doses, Risky Business, and Skilled Applicator are common.

For the more secondary talents, the Warleader sphere’s shout-based talents are a good means of ‘inspiring’ allies, particularly Harangue, Rallying Speech, and Rousing Claxon.

A Bard’s actual class can vary. Alter Ego is the most thieflike of the Sphere of Might classes, although it’s alternate identity is most likely of the mundane double agent/spy variety. Conscripts with the Knave subclass and Strikers with the Skirmishing Scout subclasses represent other good sneaky options.

Druids: Druids are specialized priests who make a pact with spirits of a localized geographic area known as a Guarded Land. Although capable of long-range travel at lower levels, they are expected to eventually settle down and choose a permanent location to defend.

In terms of Casting Tradition they are closest to Druidic, but are similar to Elemental Priests (see below) in that they must choose Nature and a relevant geomancy package for a favored element as one of their two sphere options. They do not speak Druidic as a bonus language given Athas’ lack of an overarching culture or organization of druids. Furthermore, they also are likely to have the Nature Warden drawback, representing their bond to a Guarded Land.

The benefits derived from their Guarded Land can be simulated in a number of ways. The Photosynthesis feat can emulate a Druid’s ability to not need to eat or drink for sustenance, while the ability to speak with animals and plants may be reflected via the Nature sphere’s Speak with the Elements talent and either Alteration’s Bestial Spirit talent or Beastmastery’s Wild Speaker legendary talent. As the latter is a martial sphere, the GM may make an exception in letting it be taken as a Nature sphere talent. The ability to shapechange into creatures common to one’s Guarded Lands is best replicated as the Alteration sphere with the Animalistic, Avian, Plant, and/or Vermin genotype talents, with complementary talents such as Bestial Reflexes and Size Change.

Elemental Priests: Divine magic in Dark Sun comes from the elements or the Dragon-Kings. In the case of the former, priests pledge themselves to one of the four elements and derive power from making said element more influential in the Material Plane. As a Casting Tradition they can be emulated as Divine Petitioners, choosing the Nature sphere with the geomancy package of their favored element, and either another Nature talent in line with their element or another sphere that can simulate this. Conjuration for summoning an elemental companion, Destruction for blast types of related elemental energies, and Weather for phenomena related to their favored element are common choices.

The Elementalist with the Geomancer subclass is a popular choice, and its ability to trade out class proficiencies for a martial tradition can better replicate weapon restrictions: Earth priests can use any weapons and armor, Air priests focus on ranged weaponry ‘guided by the air,’ Fire priests are likely to have Bombardier Training and access to the Alchemy sphere for the Alchemist’s Fire talent, and Water priests have a preference for bows, spears, and bludgeoning weapons.

Gladiator: Not only does Spheres of Might have a Gladiator Martial Tradition, it also has an entire sphere of the same name! Unfortunately, the Gladiator class’ major feature in Dark Sun is that they are proficient in all weapons. As the Spheres of Might system encourages specialization in small families of weapons rather than being a broad jack of all trades, other options are necessary for an authentic conversion. The Mageknight and Prodigy classes both have Blended Training and can choose to not opt for a Martial Tradition at character creation, still giving them access to talents as they level up while maintaining their universal weapon proficiencies. For the Prodigy the Battleborn subclass is the best choice, while for Mageknight magical spheres can be reflavored to be less magical or reflective of Wild Talents. The Psionicist path is a great choice for this, as is the Spellblade who takes variants to have their magical spheres be self-buffing, such as Protection’s Protected Soul and taking the Blade blast shape talent for Destruction.

The Gladiator’s expertise in unarmed combat can be represented in them taking the Equipment sphere’s Unarmed Training and Mystic Fist talents, and complementary spheres such as Brute and Wrestling. For the AC bonus to worn armor, the Enhancement sphere’s Enhance Equipment talent combined with the Personal Magics variant is a good choice. Finally, the gladiator’s ability to attract followers is best represented as the Leadership sphere with the follower package and Soldiers talent.

Psionicist: Special Note: These guidelines are useful for other campaign settings that employ the use of 2nd/3rd Edition style psionics.

Dark Sun may be a low magic setting, but it’s certainly a high-psionics one. Unlike divine or arcane magic which draws power from an external source, psychic powers come from one’s own personal will. As a Casting Tradition it is closest to Natural, albeit having Wisdom as its key ability modifier. The Psychic Casting Tradition may seem more appropriate at first glance, although the bonus spheres may differ depending on one’s favored disciplines and AD&D psionics are not necessarily limited by a caster’s concentration or emotional state. The most likely drawbacks are Mental Focus and Rigorous Concentration, and ones which rely upon external physical objects such as Diagram and Material Casting are inappropriate.

For classes psionicists can vary wildly, although “pure psionicists” are more likely to be pure casters and thus be Incanters and other classes that don’t have Blended Training or Martial Traditions.

Psionic Combat is discouraged as a wholesale conversion; using typical offensive and defensive sphere effects is preferred. For psionic attack forms, the Destruction sphere is ideal: Ego Whip and Id Insinuation are best emulated via the Slowing blast type, Mind Thrust via the Disrupting blast type, Psionic Blast via the Siphoning blast type, and Psychic Crush Corrosive or Scorching. For psionic defenses, they can be emulated via various features that impose disadvantage on enemy rolls and advantage on the user’s defensive rolls. The Universal sphere’s Dispel package can be used as a reaction by default when augmented with spell points, while the Protection sphere’s Resistance talent can grant advantage to a saving throw as a reaction. The Mind sphere’s Mind Shield talent is a highly appropriate choice, too.

When it comes to disciplines, their particular talents can vary wildly, much like the core rules’ schools of magic. Clairsentient powers are best replicated via Divination sphere talents. Psychokinetic powers typically use the Creation and Telekinesis spheres, with some miscellaneous spheres for more specialized effects: Enhancement’s Animate Objects talent for the power of the same name, the Dark and Light spheres for Control Light, Enhancement’s Manipulate Hardness for Molecular Manipulation, etc. Psychometabolic powers manipulate the physical form and thus are best replicated by the Alteration, Enhancement, and Life spheres; the Illusion sphere’s Illusionary Disguise is good for replicating the Chameleon Power. The Cannibalize power is less represented as a talent, and more of the Overcharge Casting Tradition boon, which lets a caster treat their proficiency bonus as 1 higher in exchange for suffering a level of exhaustion. Psychoportation powers are best reflected by the Conjuration and Warp spheres, as well as the Death Sphere’s Astral Projection for the power of the same name. Telepathic powers are best represented via the Mind sphere, with the Life sphere’s Break Enhancement and Restore Mind talents useful for emulating Psychic Surgery, Divination sphere’s Detect Life talent for the Life Detection power, and the Destruction sphere’s Frightful blast type talent emulates the Inflict Pain power.

In Dark Sun’s Expanded & Revised Edition, Metapsionics no longer exists as a discipline, being folded into the previous one. But some have not made the transition, which I’ll cover here. Aura Alteration can be replicated as the Illusion sphere’s Veiled Illusions talent, Empower is best emulated as the Enhancement sphere’s Bestow Intelligence talent, Psychic Clone is represented as the Death sphere’s Project Spirit advanced talent, Split Personality is emulated by the Time Sphere’s Adjusted Frequency and Shift Time talents for the apportioning of additional actions, Gird can represent augmenting spells to persist without concentration in general instead of a specific talent, Convergence is emulated by various Manabond talents from the Universal sphere, and Retrospection is closest to the Divination sphere’s Delve for Knowledge advanced talent, to name just a few.

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Templar: Templars best represent hybrid/gish spherecasters, most likely a class or subclass with access to Blended Training. For Casting Traditions they are most commonly Divine Petitioners with spheres related to their Sorcerer-King’s areas of influence. For Martial Traditions they can be diverse in a variety of fighting styles, but the institutional authority they wield often grants them Traditions with the Warleader and/or Gladiator spheres, particularly those options which impose and play off of the frightened condition. Their ability to requisition soldiers, draw upon the city treasury, and give commands to slaves may be represented by the Leadership sphere with the Followers package, with the Detectives, Soldiers, and even Friends in Low Places as common talents.

Trader: This thieflike class focuses more heavily on social skills and contacts. Their fast-talk can be easily emulated as proficiency in Deception and perhaps the use of proficiency-doubling features such as the Alter Ego’s Socialite persona or the Skill Expert feat from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The followers and special agents can be replicated both via the Leadership sphere and the Commander’s Politician subclass. For the Leadership sphere, the Merchant and Messenger follower talents are obvious choices, followed by others reflective of the trader’s areas of expertise. Alchemists, Artificers, and Craftsmen are appropriate for production of specialized goods, Entertainers for services of a non-physical nature, Friends in Low Places for illegal and black market goods, Laborers for construction projects, and Managers and Base of Operations for those whose business empire grows beyond any one person’s ability to operate. For the Politician subclass, Call In a Specialist emulates a Trader’s ability to hire on retainers of exceptional quality, as does the Leadership sphere’s sidekick package.

Wizards: This entry covers both defilers and preservers. All arcane magic draws upon surrounding life energy, specifically plants and soil, for the powering of spells. Defilers and Preservers are cut from the same cloth, but the difference is in their mindset. In traditional AD&D they were treated as separate classes, with defilers leveling up faster to represent the tempting ease of their power.

Preserver Wizards more or less function as standard Wizards in other D&D settings for conversion: the Traditional Magic Casting Tradition being the most likely, and from there it’s all up to the player on what class and spheres best reflect their favored spells. As for defilers, they are equally versatile but always have the Terrain Casting Drawback and Terrain Defiler boon.
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Spheres of Siberys: the Spheres System for Eberron

A world shaped by the prophecies and marks of dragons, where magic is omnipresent and uplifted the world into a new Industrial Revolution...and a terrible continental war.

Major Traditions: Designed to incorporate a wide variety of material, just about every martial and casting tradition has its place in Eberron. Traditions that derive their power from “higher-technology” influences are usually some kind of magitech: devices powered by dragonshards, dragonmarked magic, the minor crafts of magewrights, or any combination of the three.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Eberron is a lower-powered world than typical D&D settings, where by the middle levels PCs number among some of the most talented people in major nations. But the setting’s high magic nature also means that a wide variety of spells are more commonplace here than in other settings. Generally speaking, talents without a level-based prerequisite or can be taken at 5th level are commonplace. Ones with a prerequisite of 11th level or higher represent precious lore wrought from the Dragonmarked House’s greatest visionaries, lost arts of Xen’drik and fallen civilizations, and secret techniques in the hands of the setting’s great powers such as the dragons of Argonnessen.

Technology Level: Thanks to the proliferation of magic and dragonshards, many inventions of the mid 1800s to early 1900s have supernatural counterparts in Eberron, from the lightning rails linking far-flung nations to the telephone-style speaking stones. Firearms are even present thanks to the Artillerist Artificer subclass, although they are reflavored into specialized magic wands. Renaissance and Modern era talents can be taken and reflavored as magical devices without too much trouble.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Note: In addition to the official Rising from the Last War sourcebook, I’m also drawing influence from Keith Baker’s Morgrave Miscellany and Exploring Eberron sourcebooks. Both of the latter books can be found on the Dungeon Master’s Guild.

Dragonmarks: Found only among the “major races” and among Khorvaire’s captains of industry, dragonmarks manifest as tattoo-like patterns on the flesh which grant limited magical powers keyed to a certain theme.

Rules-wise dragonmarks can be used much like they are in Rising from the Last War, as variant sub-races. But in lieu of gaining bonus spells from their Spells of the Mark ability, they gain bonus talents from a single sphere at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels a la the Cleric or Warlock’s Domain/Patron Talents replacement class features. The relevant spheres and marks are as follows: Creation (Mark of Making), Death (Mark of Death), Divination (Mark of Detection/Finding/Scribing), Illusion (Mark of Shadow), Life (Mark of Healing), Mind (Mark of Handling, Animal Shaman variant), Protection (Mark of the Sentinel/Warding), Warp (Mark of Passage), and Weather (Mark of the Storm). The Mark of Hospitality draws from a wide variety of spell types, and so the single sphere chosen should be in line with a common theme: Enhancement, Fate and Protection are appropriate. Aberrant Dragonmarks can take all types of forms and thus aren’t limited by the prior options.

Siberys dragonmarks take form upon a person upon learning an Advanced Talent with a prerequisite of 11th level or higher.

Dragonmarked

In most cases a dragonmarked spellcaster uses their primary casting tradition. Much like in the original sourcebooks, dragonmarks were more an enhancement to one’s core features rather than a defining trait. But for those spherecasting PCs who are meant to derive their powers primarily through their dragonmarks, this new casting tradition is a good means of reflecting this.

Bonus Spell Points: +1 per odd level in a casting class; Aberrant Dragonmarked may add more depending on additional drawbacks
Key Ability: Charisma
Bonus Magic Talents: Any two from relevant sphere
Drawbacks: Somatic Casting, Magical Signs, Verbal Casting; Aberrant Dragonmarked typically add Coy Casting, Draining Casting, Emotional Casting, or Painful Magic as additional drawbacks in reflection of the negative aspects
Variants: None, or Animal Shaman with Mark of Handling
Boons: None; Aberrant Mark is taken for Aberrant Dragonmarked

New Boon: Aberrant Mark

Whenever you spend 1 or more spell points on a magic sphere effect, you can expend one of your Hit Dice and roll it. If you roll an even number, you gain a number of Temporary Hit Points equal to the number rolled. If you roll an odd number, one random creature within 30 feet of you (not including you) takes force damage equal to the number rolled. If no other creatures are in range, you take the damage.

Hero Points: In the 3rd Edition version of the campaign setting and as a default rule in 4th Edition, Action Points were limited level-based commodities which could be spent to enhance a roll. This was to reflect the thrill-seeking lifestyles of pulp archetypes which comprise some of Eberron’s inspirational material.

Although not a spheres-specific rule, I highly encourage people to make use of the Hero Points optional rule found in page 264 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

New Feat: Touched by Prophecy

Whether featuring prominently in the Draconic Prophecy, blessed by protection from a powerful patron, or fortuitous luck, your life is interesting even by adventurer standards.

You gain the following benefits:
You start play with 8 Hero Points at 1st level, and gain a new total equal to 8 + half your level instead of the normal amount.
You can apply the bonus of a Hero Point to the attack roll, ability check, or saving throw of an ally within 30 feet as a reaction. Once used in such a way you must finish a long rest before being able to do so again.

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Popular Archetypes

Argent Fist: A gish-type class or subclass along with the Ascetic Martial Tradition covers the monk-like features. For the healing and light-generation abilities the Life and Light spheres are ideal, although the self-healing is represented via the Regenerate variant, while blast types that deal radiant damage represent holy-infused unarmed strikes. The ability to turn supernatural types is best represented by the Destruction sphere’s Confining and Frightful blast types along with the Blade blast shape talent applied to their unarmed strikes.

Artificer: Eberron’s most iconic class already has a spherecasting version of the artificer. Combined with prior entries in Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance talking about their own setting equivalents, it shouldn’t be very hard to use those to mine for ideas. Given Eberron’s high-magic nature, they should have the ability to take talents from the Alchemy and Tinkerer martial spheres as though they were magic talents regardless of their casting tradition. Psionic Artificers would do well to look at the Dark Sun post’s Psionicist archetype for inspiration.

Cannith Wand Adept: This class is best replicated via gish options and a new martial tradition detailed below. Leaning into the “firearms are reflavored wands” trope, the Destruction sphere’s various blast types and shapes are perhaps the most obvious options. The blade blast shape can be applied to ammunition, while the Barrage sphere’s Ceaseless Ammo legendary talent does a good job at emulating the “eternal wands” of Eberron. The prestige class’ Dual Wand Use is obviously emulated via the Dual-Wielding sphere, Siphon Charge can be replicated by the Divination sphere’s Foresight talent, and Improved Dragonmark via the Creation sphere. In terms of classes, the Armiger with the Antiquarian subclass is an ideal thematic choice. The following martial tradition can be taken by those with either the Guild Artisan or Soldier backgrounds.

New Martial Tradition: Wandslinger
During the Last War many magewrights were sent to the frontlines with eternal wands, slinging spell after spell. Some weren’t even spellcasters proper, with the height of their magical knowledge being how to activate magic items rather than summoning such powers themselves.

Key Ability Modifier: Intelligence

Bonus Talents:

Equipment:
Modern Voyager
Barrage Sphere, Ceaseless Ammo
Tinkerer Sphere: Modern Firearms


Starting Equipment:

A an automatic pistol (wand) and 10 bullets (charges)
Tinker’s Tools
Leather Armor
An explorer’s pack

Elemental Scion of Zilargo: The Alteration sphere with the Elemental genotype talent represents this prestige class’s various grafts, while the Conjuration sphere with the Elemental base talent represents their ability to “grow” an elemental from their own body. The Destruction and Nature spheres’ appropriate blast types and geomancy packages can be customized based on their favored element, and the Weather sphere is quite appropriate for those attuned to air and water elementals.

Exorcist of the Silver Flame: These holy people specialize in warding off supernatural evil. Primarily spellcasters, they typically casting traditions in line with divine origins. In regards to the original prestige class, the Enhancement sphere’s Deadly Weapon and Enhanced Equipment talents do a good job at representing their chosen weapon. Detect Thoughts is replicated via the Mind sphere’s Read Mind talent, while their more traditional exorcism abilities can be replicated via Fate’s Exorcise talent. The Fate sphere’s Hallow talent and the Protection sphere’s various talents can represent diverse means of warding away otherworldly influence. The Turn Undead feature of the Incanter’s Priest subclass is also a good choice.

Gatekeeper Druids: Defenders of the mortal world against the maddening incursions of Xoriat, the Gatekeepers are a druidic order specializing in anti-aberration measures. They can be built like typical druids (Druidic casting tradition, Alteration, Nature, and Weather spheres, etc) although they tend to invest a few talents into the Fate and Protection spheres. The Fate sphere’s Hallow consecration and Protection’s Spell Ward are nigh-essential, while Protection’s Inner Peace, Mind’s Mind Shield, and Warp’s Plane Manipulator are other popular talents.

Pantheon Worshiper: In Eberron, clerics can pledge allegiance to the gods of an entire pantheon rather than just a singular entity. To replicate such religious diversity, class features which allow a character to swap magical talents are ideal. The Incanter’s Arcanist and the Prodigy’s Savant’s Calling subclasses allow for this, as does the Soul Weaver’s Channel Spirit class feature.

Planar Shephard: Renowned as one of the most overpowered druid prestige classes in 3rd Edition, the spherecasting version isn’t as gamebreaking. The Protection sphere’s Adaption advanced talent is good at replicating their versatile planar immunities, and the Universal sphere’s Mass metasphere talent can grant this to allies. The Divination sphere’s Detect Portal talent allows them to sense manifest zones and extraplanar phenomena, while the Warp sphere’s Planeshift advanced talent is self-evident.

Spellcarved Soldier: Naturally, such warforged are invariably gishes of some sort. The Rune of Extension can be emulated via the Universal Sphere’s Extend metasphere talent, while Rune of Resistance can be replicated by the Mind sphere’s Mind Shield and Protection sphere’s Resistance talents. Rune of Warding is closest to the Protection sphere’s Obstruction talent. Rune of Fortification isn’t an easy conversion, as there aren’t any talents (or features in base 5e) which really negate or lessen the effects of critical hits. The Nature sphere’s Resist Elements talent can be augmented as a reaction, and taking Master of Elements twice allows them to apply this to 8 damage types. Rune of the Archmage is another difficult one, although certain casting tradition boons which can increase one’s proficiency bonus for magic sphere effects are appropriate, such as Empowered Abilities and Overcharge.

Warforged Juggernaut: The Brute sphere’s a no brainer for this build, while Berserker has several talents which can enhance their staying power. Alternative Maneuvers allows one to perform brutal shoves as part of an overrun attempt, while Follow-Through and Hammer grant nice ways of dealing more damage. The Berserker sphere’s Juggernaut talent is obviously appropriate, and Berserk and Deathless represents the difficulty in outright killing the warforged. The Athletics sphere’s Rapid Motion and Swift Movement help enhance their mobility.

Warforged don’t typically come from inherited wealth. As the only Spheres of Might talent which grants two ranks in the Armor Training talent is affiliated with the Noble Background, this new martial tradition is appropriate for this archetype. This martial tradition can be taken by a character with the soldier background.

New Martial Tradition: Warforged Juggernaut
Designed by the best architects of House Cannith, every inch of the warforged juggernaut’s body is maximized in dealing out and taking punishment on the fields of battle.

Key Ability Modifier: Wisdom

Bonus Talents:

Equipment:
Armor Training x2, Bruiser Training
Brute Sphere

Starting Equipment:


(a) a warhammer and a shield or (b) a maul
(a) leather armor, (b) scale mail, or (c) chain mail
A light crossbow and 20 bolts
An explorer’s pack

Weretouched Master: The Alteration sphere combined with a gish-type class or subclass does a good job at being faithful to the original prestige class. For genotype talents, Animalistic and Anthropomorphic represent most of the common shifter options, while the physical enhancements that come with such shapechanging are best replicated by the Enhancement sphere’s various talents. Enhance Size, Physical Enhancement, Speed Control, and Enhance Equipment applied to natural weapons are highly appropriate.

Paradoxically, the dragon genotype’s granting of Frightful Presence is the best means of replicating Frightful Shifting. That, or the Destruction sphere’s Frightful blast type combined with an appropriate ranged blast shape.
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
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Spheres of Fate: the Spheres System for Al-Qadim

A land united by faith and empire, where the petty racial bigotries that plague other worlds have been left in the past. Adventurers explore the endless sands, lush jungles of ruined kingdoms, and the countless islands of torrential seas, with Fate as their ultimate guide. This is Zakhara, home to a thousand and one tales and many more of your own creation!

Major Traditions: Magical traditions in the Land of Fate follow more specific paths than in other settings. The “classic” traditions that follow the AD&D core classes are present, while more esoteric options are typically brought from foreign shores or unearthed from the lore of the Ruined Kingdoms and Unenlightened peoples. Many arcane spellcasters are affiliated with one of the four elements derived from their own potential or granted to them by genies. Divine casters tend to honor the Enlightened gods, gaining spheres appropriate to their areas of influence. Instead of Druids, there are Kahin, Unenlightened priests and priestesses who derive their power from idols.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Although blessedly isolated from much of Faerûn’s world-shaking events, Zakhara is still as grand and wondrous as that more northern continent in its own unique ways. Advanced and Legendary talents are well-known, if more in story-telling and poetry rather than direct experience. Many wizards and swordsmen have gone on to develop unprecedented techniques that stay in the mind’s eye of witnesses their entire lives, remastered by future generations following in their example.

Technology Level: Zakhara has entered an unprecedented age of science and reason, although society is still in the pseudo-medieval level. The restrictions on gunpowder are just as present here as in the rest of Toril, although clockwork creations and constructs are an emerging art. Alchemy, both magical and mundane, is common, particularly among the al-Hadhar (city-dwelling) population.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Note: In addition to the AD&D sourcebooks, I highly recommend Campaign Guide: Zakhara - Adventures in the Land of Fate. It is found on the Dungeon Master’s Guild and updates the core setting and a lot of supplemental material to 5th Edition.

Calling Upon Fate: This rule represents the mysterious whims of a cosmic force greater than even the gods. Fate has a bias in favor of the humble: in terms of mechanics this is akin to a Cleric’s Divine Intervention class feature, although the percentile dice chance is equal to 20 minus the invoker’s level or Station, whichever is greater. The nature of the intervention is subtle, taking the form of an auspiciously plausible coincidence. Instead of being restored upon a long rest, a successful invoking of Fate prevents a character from doing so again for a year and a day.

Class Kit: As the AD&D equivalent of subclasses, class kits are additional benefits (and sometimes restrictions) put on top of a core class. As 5th Edition already has subclasses which more or less do this, they can be replicated this way along with the proper combination of casting and/or martial traditions.

But not all Zakharan kits hew close to modern archetypes. To encourage following a class kit’s path, PCs gain one bonus martial or magical talent in keeping with the kit’s theme. For example, an Astrologer can gain a Divination talent, a Barber an Alchemy talent, a Holy Slayer a Scout talent, and so on. Kits will be covered in the Popular Archetypes section.

Evil Eye: Enemy of the proud and undoer of mighty works, the Evil Eye is a supernatural phenomenon that afflicts those who fail to show sufficient humility in their personal conduct. A character who acts in an arrogant manner, especially in regards to accepting undeserved praise and shows disrespect to the abilities of others, is at risk of this once per adventure. On a failed Charisma save (DC ranges from 12 to 20 based on the severity and past misdeeds) the character is afflicted with a spell or sphere effect with the [curse] descriptor, save that the duration lasts until the character learns the error of their ways. This is typically no more than the length of the current or the next adventure. Spell and sphere effects designed to ward against otherworldly intrusion and mental influences such as Hallow and Mind Shield grant advantage on this saving throw.

Station: A PC has a Station score equal to their level (or Challenge Rating) plus their Charisma modifier, representing their favored status in the social hierarchy. PCs with the Leadership and/or Warleader spheres increase this further by a value equal to 1 (the base sphere, 2 if they have both spheres) plus the number of talents they have in the relevant sphere(s). Characters with a higher Station gain advantage on Charisma ability checks when interacting with those of lower Station, provided that they aren’t trying to conceal their Station from the target.

The Station of NPCs can differ based on their social role and status, with modifiers of +5 to +15 for political rulers and heads of state.

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Popular Archetypes

Astrologers and Digitologists: These wizardly traditions rely upon constellations and mathematical equations, taking longer to cast but with more precise effects. For a Spheres conversion they are rather interchangeable, and their Casting Tradition is best emulated via the following drawbacks: Extended Casting, Rigorous Concentration taken twice, and Skilled Casting for the appropriate skill or tool proficiency. Counting as five drawbacks, this grants them a lot of spell points, although taking the Aptitude boon can help for more accurate casting predictions. For Spheres they are as versatile as any wizard, although the Fate sphere’s various Motif talents can be appropriate for an Astrologer by being reflavored as constellations in the night sky. The Divination sphere’s Augury and Foresight talents are good for representing celestial predictions (astrologer) or calculating statistically probable future events (digitologist).

Barber: This archetype can be reflected via the Equipment sphere’s Dagger Bravo talent reflecting the barber’s affinity with small bladed weapons. The Alchemy sphere, particularly talents with the [medicine] descriptor, are highly valued for the archetype’s beneficiary concoctions and often come with the Hippocratic Oath variant. As well-known rumormongers and gatherers, the Leadership sphere with the Detectives and Ground Team follower talents represent a barber’s information network.

Clockwork Mage: Although not capable of spellcasting, these masters of mechanics were technically wizards in AD&D terminology. The Artificer Casting Tradition but with the Bonus Magic Talents swapped out for the Conjuration sphere plus one bonus talent in said sphere is a good means of replicating the original class kit. Conjuration’s Construct base talent is a must, while Extra Companion and the Group Summon advanced talent can help deploy a small army of their creations. Enhancement and Life spheres for improving and fixing their construct companions are good bonus spheres to have. Albeit perhaps with unique Variants where such abilities only work on the Construct type in exchange for bonus talents in the respective spheres.

Corsair: The Pirate Martial Tradition is a no-brainer, with the Athletics sphere for swashbuckling mobility. In AD&D they were a ranger kit, and the Ranger spherecaster’s Blended Training grants them a casting tradition and some magical talents as well. Strong Lungs and the Shark Swim legendary talent are common choices for their seafaring life, and Rope Swing and Wall Stunt let them better take advantage of three-dimensional movement in combat.

Elementalists: One of the most common arcane casters in the Land of Fate, they can be built in a similar way to Elemental Priests in the Dark Sun entry. They use the Traditional Magic casting tradition instead, and while most focus on a singular element a talented few can specialize in two. Three or four is possible, although the heavy amount of talents makes it a restrictive investment and may not be thematically appropriate depending on DM discretion.

Enlightened Clerics: Unlike other settings, the Enlightened gods of Zakhara are worshiped together as part of a whole pantheon, with only a few people dedicating themselves wholly to one deity. Instead religious institutions are divided on sects and philosophies with their own takes on Enlightenment. Those seeking an “authentic” conversion should emphasize the Creation, Death, Divination, Enhancement, Life, Light, Mind, Protection, and Warp spheres for “major” cleric spheres. “Minor” spheres are those which pertain to the elements, typically Destruction and Nature. “Forbidden” spheres are ones related directly to animals and plants (Alteration and Nature’s plant geomancy package), Fate, Time, and Weather.

Beyond the spheres/domains common to Enlightenment, sects come with benefits. Typically speaking this can be replicated via granting access to the Leadership sphere talents as though they were magic talents, whether or not the Cleric has Blended Training. Pragmatists are used to a life of travel and have follower talents such as Hunters, Messengers, and Rangers, while Ethoists and Moralists have more direct ties to their communities and have talents such as Base of Operations and Managers. All priests commonly take the Healers and Priests follower talents, with Soldiers a popular choice among Moralists.

Ghul Lord: This archetype is typically a Soul Weaver, and if they have access to a Martial Tradition they pick one that grants proficiency in sword-like weapons (scimitar, longsword, etc) and Unarmored Training if possible. They specialize in the Death sphere, and their Manipulations from AD&D can be converted in a variety of ways: Attack Manipulations via the Destruction sphere (especially necrotic damage blast types), Defense Manipulations the Protection sphere (especially barriers as a ward type), Informative Manipulations the Divination sphere, and Movement Manipulations the Warp Sphere.

Hakima/Hakim: A Casting Tradition with the Skilled Casting drawback and Aptitude boon (both tied to Insight) best simulates these supernatural seers of truth. The Divination sphere is essential, with Detect Information, Detect Background, and Detect Secrets as common (divine) talents. Blindfolded Oracle, Discern Individual, and True Seeing are ideal (sense) talents.

Holy Slayer: Depending on their order, a holy slayer’s Martial Tradition and Equipment sphere talents can vary widely in terms of potential weapon proficiencies. The Scout sphere is very common, particularly for research talents which enhance their attacks against scouted targets. Hidden Appearance is good for gaining proficiency (or doubling it) with disguise kits, while Sense and Resist Scrying is good for eluding magical senses. The Leadership sphere’s Detectives and Friends in Low Places follower talents represent connections to the order. The ability to send and receive encrypted messages via Linguists and Merchants follower talents are also favored options, if a bit situational. The Alter Ego class, particularly the Vigilante subclass, is a great representation of the double lives holy slayers lead.

Jackal: This class kit can be best replicated via the Prodigy's Mimic subclass, or other roguish classes and subclasses (Alter Ego, Conscript’s Knave, Artisan’s Sapper, Striker’s Skirmishing Scout, the Scoundrel and Trap spheres) with the Magical Training feat. Or if unable to gain access to said feat, a gish class or subclass, or taking Magic Spheres Adept as a Fighting Style. The Universal sphere’s dispel package, along with the Spellthief dispel talent, are the abilities virtually every jackal learns. Various manabond talents such as Flow, Incompetence, and Misdirection are also good choices.

Kahin: This class kit can be built similar to a Druid, although their warrior-style nonweapon proficiencies lend themselves well to a gish type. Beastmastery and Trap are common martial sphere options, while their immunities as a high-level Aged Master can be represented via the Protection sphere’s Adaption advanced talent and the Nature sphere’s Resist Elements talent.

Mageweaver: The Traditional Magic Casting Tradition but with the Physical Magic boon in the form of woven fabrics is a faithful adaptation of this class kit.

Mamluk: Mamluk soldiers have all kinds of martial traditions and spheres, although there’s a few commonalities representing their dedication and drive in the service of the Caliphate. The Gladiator sphere’s Uncowed demoralize talent helps them resist falling to fear, while the Berserker’s Deathless talent ensures that they hold off from death’s door a little while longer. The Guardian sphere is common for those acting as bodyguards.

Merchant-Rogue: The Trader archetype from the Dark Sun entry in this thread does a good job simulating this class kit in al-Qadim.

Mystic of Nog: Less a traditional spellcaster and more of a gish, this archetype focuses on spells of personal physical empowerment. The Alteration, Enhancement, and Life spheres are appropriate here, but with the Lycanthropic, Personal Magics, and Regenerate variants given that they can only affect themselves with such magic.

Mystics: As Enlightened Priests, but their emphasis on worship via a certain activity is emulated via the Skilled Casting drawback and Aptitude boon corresponding to their religion’s favored skill or tool proficiency.

Shai’r: These mages have a diverse array of spells befitting arcane spellcasters, although their elemental familiars and the ability to call upon genies for aid is best represented via the Conjuration sphere. The Elemental form talent is a good baseline for summoned allies, while the Calling and Diagram advanced talents are good for compelling genies into service. The Warp sphere’s Planeshift is common at higher levels given the sha’ir’s affairs and errands among the elemental planes. The Object Bound variant for Conjuration, usually in the form of a lamp or ring, is quite thematically appropriate.

Spellslayer: This class kit can be built much like the suggestions for Jackals. Strongly focused in antimagic abilities, the Universal sphere’s Dispel package and associated talents are their primary means of overcoming spellcasting foes. Counterspell is a common choice, as is Disorient and Greater Dispel. The Destruction sphere with the Disrupting blast type and blade blast shape help instill antimagic abilities directly into their physical attacks.
 
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Libertad

Adventurer
Hello everyone! I’ve done half a dozen official settings for the Spheres system, and feel quite accomplished. But now I’m going to move on to tackling 3rd party works before continuing on with TSR/WotC ones. I have several reasons for this.

Birthright, Council of Wyrms, Ghostwalk, Spelljammer: the settings’ respective major features aren’t easily transferable to the Spheres system or don’t have enough magic systems/class kits/etc that differentiates them from options in “kitchen sink” settings.

Blackmoor, Dragon Fist, Jakandor, Pelinore: Too obscure/expensive physical copies/not legally accessible.

Exandria, Forgotten Realms and Magic the Gathering Sub-Settings: I don’t know enough about them or own sourcebooks to build upon them well.

Greyhawk: Too generic.

Mystara: No corebook, content too spread out.

Planescape: core material doesn’t have enough unique material for setting-specific magic systems/class kits/etc.

I hate to disappoint the fans of such works, but as a gamer on a budget I’m going to focus on the works I know well and read for the time being.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
N6W6Krw.jpeg

Dark Roads and Deep Spheres: the Spheres System for Midgard

A realm that is flat, embraced within the coils of the World-Serpent. Where the gods wear many faces and ley lines fuel works of unprecedented magical might. Whether visited by dragon wing or shadow road, there is not a single place on Midgard untouched by the greatness and wonder of immortal titans and mortal heroes.

Major Traditions: Midgard is home to a multitude of magical traditions and fighting styles, more than a few of which have faded into memory and may or may not be revived by present-day scholars. Few traditions are outright banned from the hands of player use, although various kingdoms and cultures emphasize certain forms of magic more than others. For example, the flying city of Aerdvall houses a famed order of Aeromancers who draw their magic from a Celestial Waterfall, while the paladins of the Madgar Kingdoms are famed for their heavy cavalry and light-based magic that draws power from the sun.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: Midgard is a setting that thinks large even at low levels. The theurges of Nuria Natal draw upon their river kingdom’s ley lines to erect grand pyramids which house entombed god-kings, while artificers in the city of Zobeck transfer the souls of warriors into bodies of gear and iron. Advanced and Legendary Talents are not only in keeping with the mighty deeds of the world’s power players, they are within the reach of the player characters themselves. Such talents may be obtained via earning favor from a god, absorbing a divine spark of the Southlands’ titans, or delving into one of many esoteric magical traditions such as the Ravenfolk’s Doom Croakers or Elven Ritual Magic dating back to the Empire of Thorn.

Technology Level: The lands of Midgard vary in regards to technological access. Far-flung and sparsely populated places such as the Rothenian Plains and Western Wastes are home to tribes who have little more than what they can carry and trade or raid for. Sedentary kingdoms such as the Grand Duchy of Dornig and the Seven Cities tend to be pseudo-medieval. There are a few more advanced societies, such as the Dwarven Cantons whose artisans mastered the closely-guarded secrets of gunpowder and airships, while the Tamasheq of the Southlands have a hidden city where a mineral known as vril allows them to build sci-fi style weapons and gear.

Generally speaking, Renaissance era items and technological talents are restricted to the Dwarven Cantons and Free City Zobeck, albeit only the dwarves know how to make Renaissance firearms. Modern and Futuristic era items are the exclusive product of vril and found only among the Tamasheq city of Kel Azjer and reclusive technological caches in the Wasted West.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Ley Lines: Flowing through most of the surface world, ley lines can be tapped by spellcasters to power their magic and are also used for rapid travel between locations along the respective lines. Requiring special training to find and tap, spherecasters with an appropriate casting tradition, subclass, or feat can make use of them. This is via DM discretion, but some good guidelines may be those connected to the land (such as the Elementalist’s Path of the Geomancer subclass), association with dynasties that made use of ley lines (such as the elven Empire of Thorn and the River Kingdom of Nuria Natal), or appropriate Divination sphere talents (Detect Portal for shadow road gates, Dowsing to locate the nearest ley line, etc).

The rules for ley line effects and associated feats can be found in the Midgard Heroes’ Handbook, and the table results for ley line effects can more or less work seamlessly with the Spheres of Power system. For instances where spell slots are referenced, substitute it for spell points. A “highest-level spell slot” is equivalent to a number of spell points equal to half the spherecaster’s levels in a casting class, rounded down.

For those who don’t own that wonderful book, using inspiration from the spherecasting sorcerer’s modified Metamagic class feature can be a good substitute. In this case individual ley lines have 1-3 metamagic options associated with them depending on their strength. Once tapped for one of its metamagic options, a spherecaster cannot make use of the ley line’s benefits again until the next short or long rest.

Pantheist Priests: Due to wearing different masks in different cultures, deities are honored in most mortal societies as part of a shared local pantheon. Such groupings are more due to social conveniences than socio-religious alliances among the gods themselves, but as long as respect is given and sacrifices are offered they are generous with their blessings all the same.

Pantheist priests are built like spherecasting clerics, or with DM permission other classes who gain bonus talents related to a single sphere or concept such as a Paladin’s Oath. At the start of each week the spherecaster chooses a deity from their cultural pantheon to honor, and they gain the bonus spheres related to their domain/oath/etc along with related class features such as Channel Divinity. At the end of that week they must pick a new deity, swapping out their bonus spheres and class features for a new set. They cannot return to the same deity until at least two weeks have gone by, and must serve each deity at least once every twelve weeks.

Rune Magic: Spherecasters who have the Ritualist and/or Spellbook boons are capable of learning rune magic as detailed in the Midgard Heroes’ Handbook. Rune Powers can be learned as rituals, with an equivalent spell level of half the character level necessary to learn, rounded up. Such spells can be cast as rituals even if they lack the [ritual] tag, and Rune Bonuses are learned automatically as soon as the spherecaster learns the lowest-level Rune Power.

For those without the book or who want a simpler system, rune magic’s minor bonuses can take the form of Enhancement and Fate sphere talents that grant knowledge and competency in certain tasks, particularly the Enhancement sphere’s Mental Enhancement and the Fate sphere’s Logos. The Powers proper can be represented as Vancian spells learned as rituals via the Ritualist boon. As a Casting Tradition the Diagram Magic and Extended Casting drawbacks along with the Ritualist boon can represent someone who makes use of runes as their first and foremost method of magic. Flavorwise these rules can just as easily apply to the Hieroglyphic Magic of Nuria Natal.

Divine Sparks: Found in forgotten and well-guarded monuments to the titan civilization of Glorious Umbuso, divine sparks manifest as glowing spheres of energy which a brave mortal can absorb into their body. The spark imparts knowledge of a single Advanced or Legendary talent in the user, usually in line with the original titan’s strengths. Characters must meet the prerequisites of a spark-granted talent. In the event that a talent is unlearnable, the DM can either have them learn an Advanced/Legendary talent that they qualify for or suffer some curse for daring to control the power of immortals.

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Popular Archetypes

Beer Domain Cleric: The Beer Domain in the Midgard Heroes’ Handbook for a cleric spherecaster is good enough at emulating this archetype, but the question is what serves as appropriate sphere talents. The Mind sphere seems the most appropriate, creating effects that enhance one’s allies and befuddle one’s enemies which are the domain’s default bonus spells.

Cat Domain Cleric: Most known by advocates of Bast, the domain of the same name from the Midgard Heroes’ Handbook can be taken easily enough. For sphere talents no one sphere fits the bill, and the specific spells differ depending on the caster’s area of expertise. Alteration can be useful for abilities to make targets more catlike, while Fate is useful for emulating the association of felines with luck. The Nature sphere’s Beast Friend and Speak with Beasts are highly useful for getting on the good side of cats, and the Clowder of Cats spell from the Southlands Pathfinder sourcebook can be emulated via the Conjuration sphere with the Swarm base talent.

Clockwork Mage: Whether a priest of Rava the Gear Goddess or a student of Zobeck’s peculiar magical traditions, these archetypes can be simulated via a variety of spheres. The Alteration sphere’s Object genotype talent combined with the Anthropomorphic genotype talent and Construct Traits talent is good for taking on the forms of various artificial entities. The Conjuration sphere with the Construct base talent is good for calling upon clockwork companions. The Nature sphere’s metal geomancy package is good for reshaping iron and similar material into deadlier forms, while Create Nature or the Creation sphere with Expanded Materials can conjure such material at hand. Mages with access to martial spheres or the Artificer/Alchemist casting traditions often take talents from the Alchemy and Tinkerer spheres.

Duelist Rogue: This archetype can be replicated via the Dual-Wielding, Fencing, and Scoundrel spheres depending on the Techniques emulated. For example, Clinch’s closest equivalent is Fencing’s Bind Weapon, while Wall of Flashing Steel is Fencing’s Parry and Riposte. Witty Repartee can function as any of the Gladiator sphere’s various Boast or Demoralize talents. Treating a rapier as a light weapon can be done via the Dual-Wielding sphere’s Greater Blades, which allows one to two-weapon fight with one-handed weapons lacking the Light property.

Advantage on initiative checks and being able to Attack while surprised are a bit trickier. The first requires making use of magic with the Enhancement sphere’s Physical Enhancement talent, while the latter via the Time sphere’s Rapid Response talent. As both spheres grant a bonus talent of choice upon attaining them, the Magical Training feat is a good way to gain such benefits if committed to being a noncaster.

Elemental Crusader: The Paladin Spherecaster with the Conjuration sphere and Elemental base talent is self-evident. Amorphous Creatures lets them summon a variety of elemental types, while Altered Size lets them summon larger elementals. Further form talents to customize and enhance their elemental companions are favored choices.

Ghost Knight: Taking the Leadership sphere’s sidekick package combined with Master of the Dead allows one to gain an undead mount, while Beastmastery’s ride package and associated talents further supplement this. The higher-level features are closer to magical abilities, meaning that a gish class or subclass is ideal. The Alteration sphere’s Undead Traits trait talent allows one to become incorporeal, but extending it to the mount requires the Universal sphere’s Mass metasphere talent. The ability to impose the Frightened condition can be emulated via the Gladiator sphere’s base demoralize ability.

Gnoll Caravan Raider: Although available as a background in 5th Edition, in 3rd edition they were an alchemist-focused Rogue. The raider’s magical “shock bags” functioned as alchemical AoE effects. In Spheres they would certainly have the Alchemy sphere with the Gaseous Application talent and the Equipment sphere’s Bombardier Training. Their speed-enhancing formula is best replicated by the War paint formula talent, with blue paint for the speed bonus.

Griffon Knight: The Beastmastery sphere combined with the Broad Skills tamer talent can grant one a griffon companion by 6th level, or earlier if a Scholar with the Zoology study. Taking the Extra Beastmastery Package talent to also gain the Rider package is a must to turn the griffon into a mount, and Acrobatic Mount and Skirmish Rider ride talents help take advantage of its aerial mobility. The Nature sphere’s Air Mastery talent can replicate the Feather Fall ability, and given that it just takes 2 talent slots to get it can be gained for non-spherecasting classes via the Magical Training feat or Magic Spheres Adept as a Fighting Style. The special maneuvers of Aerial Combat Mastery can be emulated via the Retribution sphere (Blackfeather’s Fury), the Athletics sphere’s Mobility talent (Sir Andros’ Daring Flyby), and Beastmastery’s Double Team and/or Mounted Maneuvers talents (Hammerschlag’s Forceful Charge).

Shadowsworn: This Pathfinder-specific core class can be converted to the 5th Edition Spheres System easily enough. The Dark sphere is a natural choice, while the class’ ability to Summon Shadows can be emulated via the Conjuration sphere with the Undead base talent and Shadow Creature form talent. Alternatively the Death sphere’s Shadow undead talent with the Incorporeal reanimate talent is another good choice. The Shadow Transformation 20th level capstone can be emulated via the Undead Traits trait talent and the Permanent Transformation advanced talent applied to themselves.

The various Shadow Talents differ widely in terms of appropriate sphere talents, although the Scoundrel sphere’s talents which enhance the dirty trick base ability, the Dark sphere’s talents which grant increased maneuverability in shadows, and the Dark sphere’s Shadow Lurk talent for emulating the Shadow Familiar are all good choices.

Sword-Dancer: The Performer martial tradition is the best choice for this archetype, as it has Charisma as a key ability modifier and grants the ability to take Unarmored Training. Light On Your Feet is emulated via the aforementioned talent, and Berserker’s Juggernaut adrenaline talent helps with ignoring difficult terrain. The Dual-Wielding sphere’s Dancing Display talent emulates the subclass’ Dust on the Wind ability, while Retribution’s Cross Counter emulates Howling Edge of the Razor. Teeth of Khamsin can be emulated via the Athletics sphere’s Mobility and Rapid Motion talents.

Whisper Rogue: The best way to emulate this archetype’s base abilities is via the spherecasting variant of the Arcane Trickster with the Dark and Illusion spheres. The Dark sphere’s Hide in Darkness meld talent replicates them being able to hide even while clearly visible, while Step Through Darkness replicates their ability to teleport between shadows. The Illusion sphere’s Obscure glamer talent allows the option to turn a target invisible along with the blur-style “disadvantage on attacks” quality.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Supers & Spheres: the Spheres System for Supers & Sorcery

A world where kaiju roam in the wild lands beyond the mountains. A world with a city that sits at the center of an extraplanar network of myriad realities. Every 20 years brings a new generation of empowered individuals, some of whom use their newfound talents for selfless virtue, others for selfish vice.

Major Traditions: Reflecting comic book tropes and origins for its inspirational material, there’s no true limit to Beacon’s casting and martial traditions. The linked worlds dotting Portal Plaza draw people from planes of existence both familiar and foreign, adding to the diversity.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: All advanced and legendary talents can be taken in the world of Beacon.

Technology Level: Beacon operates at a higher technology level than most settings. Magical items and advanced technology combine together to grant Modern-era conveniences to the city’s inhabitants, while many super-science devices push things into the Futuristic era. Standard pseudo-medieval technology is still in widespread use in terms of weapons and armor, although superheroes are rarely constrained by such limitations.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Starting Tier: Barring a few exceptions, superhero RPGs operate on a higher level of power than Dungeons & Dragons. It doesn’t feel very “super” when your PCs are struggling against mundane foes. As many Advanced talents come into play at 11th level, which itself is Tier 3 Masters of the Realm, that can serve as an ideal starting level for Supers & Sorcery PCs.

Sidekicks: Instead of using the sub-par options in the default Supers & Sorcery sourcebook, PCs desiring sidekicks can gain that package for free from the Leadership sphere. PCs who don’t want a sidekick can instead gain the followers package, representing various contacts and allies they built over their crime-fighting career. PCs don’t gain proficiency in Persuasion by default this way, nor do they gain a bonus talent in the sphere if they already are proficient. PCs without access to Martial Training or Blended Training can still spend talents in Leadership if they wish to enhance their sidekicks/followers.

I Have Just the Thing! PCs who have an artisan/inventor-style background, a well-stocked headquarters, or a trusty utility belt can spend Inspiration to have a convenient portable item on hand. Most mundane items can be gained without restriction, although magic items are limited by rarity. The magic item’s rarity varies depending on the Tier of Play: Common for Tier 1, Uncommon for Tier 2, Rare for Tier 3, and Very Rare for Tier 4. The magic item is single-use, and a PC must finish a long rest before being able to spend Inspiration this way again.

Defy the Ground: Flying is an extremely common superpower, but long-term flight in the basic rules is hard to attain outside of race and special mounts. Although Supers & Sorcery has a new feat and magical items granting permanent flight, enhancing existing sphere talents is also a viable option.

All PCs who have access to martial spheres gain the Sparrow’s Path talent of the Athletics sphere for free, or a similar talent which sufficiently enhances movement in some manner such as Rope Swing or Spider’s Touch (also both Athletics). PCs with access to magical spheres gain the Pushed Movement talent of the Telekinesis sphere for free, although the initial casting is 0 spell points instead of 1, or a magical talent which grants them flight or other forms of enhanced movement in a direct or indirect manner such as the Alteration sphere’s Avian talent or the Conjuration sphere’s Aerial Creature talent. In all such cases the PC doesn’t gain access to the base sphere abilities, only the benefits of the specific talent.

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Popular Archetypes

It is of this poster’s opinion that the default Class and Subclasses of Supers & Sorcery aren’t that good, so designing archetypes closer in line to traditional comic book heroes is a better option than faithful conversions of Beacon’s existing options. A lot of superpowers can be replicated by default sphere options as opposed to entire builds (Destruction/Nature/Weather for elemental control, Illusion for Invisibility, the Dark sphere’s One With the Void for Intangibility), so the below options focus on more involved, wide-ranging, and less conventional superpower options.

Regeneration/Immortality: The Life sphere’s various advanced talents combined with the Regenerate variant do a good job of simulating an amazing healing factor. The Quicken metasphere talent frees up their action slot, while Contingency combined with Resurrection or Greater Resurrection allows the character to come back from the dead if slain.

Super-Strength: The Conscript’s Brawler subclass option allows a character to push, drag, lift, shove, and grapple as 1-2 size categories large depending on level. Combined with the Brute sphere’s Muscular Surge this can add up to a total of 3 size categories. The Athletics, Brute, and Wrestling sphere talents have many good options: adding double proficiency to Athletics via the Athletics sphere’s Training or Brute sphere’s Greater Brute is practically required to be a good grappler. The Brute sphere’s Legendary talents have the most iconic “super-strength superpower” options like Earthquake Stomp and Terrain Trasher. For weapon/damage types, the Equipment sphere’s Unarmed Training is a common thematic choice, as is the Barroom sphere’s Brutal Breaker base ability and the fragile talents for use of improvised weapons. For ranged combat the Equipment sphere’s Rock Toss allows the character to throw all kinds of objects and people, while Wrestling’s Living Weapon lets them use creatures as melee weapons. For teamwork, Telekinesis’ Dampening Field allows thrown creatures to negate damage from being used as a projectile. The Retribution Sphere’s Launching Uppercut and the Brute Sphere’s Perpetual Motion and Throw talents are alternative ways of throwing creatures.

For less directly offensive feats of super-strength, talents such as the Athletics sphere’s Mighty Conditioning, Strong Lungs, Sure Grip, and Legendary Talents such as Shark Swim and Terrain Glide are good means of showing off one’s superhuman athleticism.

Superman Powers: A faithful representation of Superman is beyond the scope and means of 5th Edition. But replicating some of his common powers can still be done, if at a lower magnitude. The Super-Strength option above represents his physical feats, while flying can make use of bonus talents gained from the new Defy the Ground rule. X-ray vision can be emulated via the Divination sphere’s Unobscured Vision talent, while the Viewing talent and Scrying can represent super-senses that can extend great distances. Advanced Senses plus Expanded Divination can grant a host of additional sense types. The Protection sphere’s Breathless and Adaptation talents allow one to ignore most negative environmental conditions and a host of damage resistances.

Speedster: The Athletics, Time, and Warp spheres are the most appropriate for this superpower. The Warp sphere’s Flawless Teleport combined with True Teleport can represent being able to show up virtually anywhere instantly, while Planeshift can replicate going so fast that one crosses into another era or reality. The Warp sphere’s Spatial Reach can further increase movement and reach for melee attacks, while the Telekinesis sphere’s Speed Zone and Pushed Movement talents can make one move even faster! The Nature sphere’s air geomancy package can emulate super-speed’s ability to generate powerful air currents.

For smaller-scale applications of super-speed, the Athletics sphere’s Rapid Motion, Afterimage, Flash Step, and Speed Boost talents are the most appropriate for covering great distances on a round-by-round basis. The Time sphere’s Adjusted Frequency and Shift Time talents can grant additional actions and movement to a limited degree, while Time Freeze and eventually Time Stop is a good means of representing how the character can flawlessly react and even dodge incoming harm.

Web-Slinger: Replicating New York’s favorite wall-crawler is relatively easy in the Spheres system. A martial tradition that grants Unarmed and Unarmored Training helps represent the nimble fighting style. For the web-shooters, the Alteration sphere’s Vermin genotype talent grants one the ability to create restraining webs, and the Aberrant Body talent’s Tendril option can also be used as a long-ranged version for grappling far-off targets. The Destruction sphere’s Restraining blast type talent can replicate using the webs as a ranged weapon, ideally combined with the Explosive Orb, Ray, Sculpt, and/or Tether blast shape talents. For the stranger objects Petey made web material out of, the Creation sphere is a good choice, along with some appropriate talents such as Complex Creation and Magnify/Minimize.

The Athletics sphere has some important choices, such as Rope Swing, Wall Stunt, and the ever-so-appropriate Spider’s Touch. Various spider-themed gadgets can be represented via the Tinkerer sphere, such as Recording Gadgets for those hot-selling Daily Bugle shots.

Mecha/Power Armor: The Artisan class with the Technician subclass grants the ability to create a self-augmenting suit. Flight and super-strength have been previously covered in earlier entries, although as the Artisan only has access to martial spheres barring multiclassing or the Magical Training feat, its options are more limited than a gish. The Tinkerer sphere’s Collapsible Weapons, Integrated Weapon, Melee Weapon Improvement, Ranged Weapon Improvement, Weapon Damage Pack, and the Modern/Futuristic Firearms and Melee Weaponry talents can replicate a wide variety of onboard weapons systems. The Alchemy sphere’s various damaging formulae do the same for various energy damage types and AoE in the cases of Bomb, Dynamite, and Fragmentation Grenade talents. Suit Improvement can directly enhance the Technician’s suit, while invention options of that subclass which increase its size can emulate the mecha end of the spectrum.

Rebounding Shield: This build is surprisingly light on talent expenditures. The Equipment shere’s Throw Shield and Throwing Mastery turn shields into a boomerang-like weapon. The Shield sphere can enhance this further, such as the Cover Ally and various deflect talents. Redirecting Shield and Perfect Redirection allows one to redirect spell attacks, while Extensive Defense can create a multi-target ricochet to defend multiple nearby allies at once. The Sniper sphere’s Deadly Shot talent and the Tinkerer sphere’s Ranged Weapon Improvement talent allows one to throw the shield farther more effectively.
 

Libertad

Adventurer
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Spheres of Thylea: the Spheres System for Odyssey of the Dragonlords

A world that is approaching the end of an uneasy peace between gods and titans. A world where dragons, now long forgotten, proved the salvation of mortals against the cruel whims of giants and fey. While the divinities of Thylea are powerful, history will be shaped not by them but by the hands and deeds of legendary mortals.

Major Traditions: Drawing inspiration from Antiquity rather than the Medieval era, Thylea’s traditions are reflavored in line with such concepts. Casting Traditions drawing influence from the divinities are common among both native and settler races and are mostly aligned with either the Five Gods or the surviving Titans. Other forms of magic exist, although Artificery and Traditional Magic are most common at the Academy of Mytros, while the fey races and druids draw power from their own connection to the land via Druidic, Fey Magic, and Natural traditions. Those with Sorcerous Blood most commonly have the Inherent Divinity subtradition.

For martial traditions, those which utilize shields, spears, and one-handed swords are the most common, while heavy two-handed weapons are associated with foreign barbarians. The most common kinds of ranged weapons are javelins, slings, longbows, and shortbows. Crossbows are new inventions of the Academy of Mytros and are not commonly available.

Advanced/Legendary Talents: PCs in Odyssey of the Dragonlords are destined for greatness and well-known as heroes even before the adventure path begins. Advanced and Legendary Talents may be taken without restriction barring the below Technology Level; even if some talents are unknown to the rest of Thylea, the PCs are not so burdened.

Technology Level: The land of Thylea hews strongly to Ancient Greece, albeit with some rare fantastical innovations wrought by magic or the craftwork of Volkan the Forge God. Renaissance, Modern, and Futuristic gear aren’t thematically appropriate for this setting. Such creations, if they do exist, may be found on the Island of Time or as a unique treasure of Volkan’s.

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New Rules & Subsystems

Classical Gear: In keeping with a more authentic Ancient Greek setting, discipline talents from the Equipment sphere can substitute various weapons should the PC so desire. Mentions of the heavy crossbow can substitute the longbow, while mentions of the hand crossbow can substitute the chakram (detailed further down). The rapier is renamed the xiphos, a leaf-shaped blade specialized for thrusting and piercing. While battle axes exist, the kopis has the same stats due to its forward-curving blade. The large makhaira sword is functionally a greatsword and traditionally used by cavalry.

Following are new talents and a piece of equipment in line with culture-specific fighting styles.

New Talents

Equipment Sphere: Amazon Training (discipline): You gain proficiency with the battle axe, chakram, longbow, net, and shortsword.

Equipment Sphere: Aresian Shield Training (discipline): You gain proficiency with shields and ignore any mention of “not wielding a shield” for the purposes of Unarmored Defense, Unarmored Training, and similar effects.

Conjuration Sphere: Martial Companion: Your companion gains a martial tradition, usually Monster for those without opposable thumbs. Your companion uses your levels and proficiency bonus when determining its Sphere DC. Your companion cannot acquire legendary talents.

This talent may be taken more than once; if the companion already possesses this talent, this talent instead grants your choice of the Combat Training or Great Focus feat.

New Weapon: Chakram

Martial; 5 gp; 1d6 slashing; 1 lb.; finesse, light, special, thrown (60/120)

This circular weapon has a sharpened outer edge which can be thrown or used in hand-to-hand combat. Many warriors learn to throw it such that it boomerangs back into their hand after a successful strike.

Fame & Legend: PCs in Odyssey of the Dragonlords gain a ship with its own crew, can become political and religious leaders, and even revive the esteemed Order of the Dragonlords. Granting access to a group pool of Leadership talents is encouraged, while the Dragon Friend sidekick talent (detailed in the Dragonlance entry) is appropriate for Dragonlords-to-be.

Important milestones for gaining bonus Leadership talents include completing all three of the Great Labors, gaining possession of the Ultros ship, gaining new crew at the Island of the Exiles, helping out the lizardfolk of Fire Island, overthrowing the Cult of Lutheria on the Island of Themis in a way that earns the respect and gratitude of the Amazons, defending Mytros from the Titans’ forces, and saving at least two cities during the Apokalypsis.

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Popular Archetypes

Herculean Barbarian: The Super-Strength archetype detailed in the Supers & Sorcery writeup can be used more or less unchanged. Some other effects are trickier. The thunderwave applied to ranged weapons and immunity to poison and frightened conditions require the Magical Training feat or a dip in a spherecasting class. The Destruction sphere’s Bludgeoning blast type talent combined with the Blade blast shape is the best way for the former, while the Fate sphere’s Strength talent or the Mind sphere’s Courage and Powerful Charm talents combined together grant immunity to the frightened condition. The Protection sphere’s Protected Health talent grants resistance rather than immunity to poison damage and the poisoned condition.

College of Epic Poetry Bard: The Spherecasting Bard option can be taken as a choice with little difficulty. But for a more purist Spheres build, the Alter Ego’s Empowered subclass is the most appropriate, with individual personas dependent on the character’s self-realization of their ideal role in the saga. Inspirational Verses can be emulated via the Fate sphere’s Bless talent, the various motif talents granting advantage on certain kinds of saves, and the Protection sphere’s Energy Resistance talent. Armored Poet can be gained via the Equipment sphere’s Armor Training talent, while Protective Epithets can be emulated via the Protection sphere’s Deathless talent.

The Epic Verses isn’t easily emulated in the Spheres system, and is a bit unwieldy and requires quite a bit of book-keeping.

Prophecy Domain Cleric and the Fates Warlock Patron: Being built as a spherecasting cleric/warlock is the best way of doing this, although replacing any mention of “spell” with “magical sphere effect,” and “1st level or higher” with “expenditure of 1 or more spell points.” Divination is the most appropriate domain sphere for the Cleric, while Fate is the most appropriate domain (thematics-wise, the bonus spells don’t fit any one sphere) for Warlock.

Circle of Sacrifice Druid: The Destruction sphere’s Fire blast type combined with the Light sphere’s Guiding Light are good ways of emulating the Immolation ability. The Ritual of Mistletoe can be replicated via the Physical Magic casting tradition boon, making use of the Creation (Sustenance), Divination (Detect Magic), Life, and Mind (Inspiration) spheres and associated talents. Astrological Wisdom can be replicated via the Warp sphere’s True Teleport talent.

Hoplite Soldier: The Phalanx Fighter Martial Tradition is the most appropriate choice for proper proficiencies. The Shield sphere’s Cover Ally talent is good for emulating the subclass’ Shield Wall ability, while the Equipment sphere’s Staff Mastery talent and Fencing sphere’s Lunge talent replicate the Spear Mastery’s increased reach and hitting with the blunt end as a bonus action. The ability to intercept enemy attacks meant for allies is best emulated via the Retribution sphere’s Intercepting Strike and Raging Bull talents. The Fencing sphere has several talents that relate to the disarming of opponents, such as Bind Weapon, Fencing Focus, and Traitorous Blade. The Phalanx Wrecker capstone ability can be emulated via the Berserker sphere’s Reapers Momentum talent, or better yet the Dual Wielding sphere's Cyclone Cut legendary talent.

Way of the Shield Monk: I made a new martial tradition and talent specifically for this subclass, given that by default you cannot be proficient with shields without being proficient in medium armor in default 5th Edition and spheres. But beyond just the default tradition, the Brute sphere’s Dropkick talent combined with the Athletics sphere’s Air Stunt and Wall Stunt talents emulates the Vaulting Strike ability, while Counterattack is emulated via the Retribution sphere’s Cross Counter talent. Shell of the Dragon Turtle can be emulated via Flexible Cover, although Undaunted Spirit is a bit harder. Gaining advantage on attacks based on a foe’s size category is not easily replicable, but the Athletics sphere’s Close Quarters Training and Scale Foe talents are designed for use against larger opponents, while (temporary) immunity to paralyzed and frightened conditions can be accomplished via the Guardian sphere’s Durable talent. For magical options the Fate sphere’s Freedom talent can grant immunity to the paralyzed condition (along with others) while immunity to the frightened condition can be accomplished in the same manner as outlined under the Herculean Primal Path archetype, or via the Conscript’s Fury subclass’ 10th level ability.

New Martial Tradition: Aresian Warrior-Monk

The fighting forces of Aresia are famed throughout Thylea for their willingness to wade into battle unarmoured. This martial tradition is most appropriate for the Folk Hero, Sailor, and Soldier backgrounds.

Bonus Talents:

Equipment sphere:
Aresian Shield Training, Unarmored Training
Shield sphere
Variable:
Aresian Warrior-Monks gain either Throw Shield or Versatile Shield from the Equipment sphere.

Starting Equipment:

2 spears
A shield
3 javelins
2 handaxes
An explorer’s pack

Oath of the Dragonlord Paladin: A Spherecaster Paladin is one such option, where the Oath Spells are taken from the Nature or Time sphere given the emphasis on air and mobility. Alternatively, a gish class or subclass with the Conjuration sphere and Dragon base talent is a good means of emulating the growing draconic companion. The Conjuration sphere’s Altered Size along with the Aerial Creature or Draconic Creature talent (whichever wasn’t taken for the base form) are the next most obvious choices. The Conjuration sphere’s Link talent forges a telepathic bond with the dragon.

Amazonian Conclave Ranger: Like the monk, I made a new martial tradition to more closely reflect the archetype. If going the way of the Spherecaster Ranger the rest of the class features can be used as is, with the Mind sphere the most appropriate for Ranger Archetype Talents. Otherwise a gish class/subclass is the next best option.

The Stimfay Companion can be replicated via the Conjuration sphere with the Construct base talent plus the Aerial Creature and Magical Companion talents. For the latter, the Stimfay gains the Destruction and Life spheres as its casting tradition spheres, with Thunder and Ray as the default blast type and blast shape talents and Invigorating as the bonus blast type talent from access to the Life sphere.

The Amazonian Battlecry is best emulated via the Berserker sphere, with the Dreadnought adrenaline talent. Bracer Reflection is emulated via the Shield sphere’s Guarded Stance talent, already accounted for in the martial tradition. The Chakram Technique’s multi-targeting can be emulated via the Barrage sphere’s Spinning Shot talent, while Improved Falconry can be emulated via taking the Conjuration sphere’s Martial Companion talent (detailed above), with the Stimfay gaining the Guardian sphere (patrol package) and Defend Other talents. The Pressure Points capstone feature is the hardest to pull off; the Mind sphere’s Paralyze charm combined with Powerful Charm and the Universal sphere’s Striking metasphere talent is the best way to emulate it. Finally, the Equipment sphere’s Throwing Mastery is a common choice for Amazons specializing in the use of chakrams.

New Martial Tradition: Amazon

Raised on the warm island of Themis, the Amazons are renowned for their ferocity in battle and skill with the chakram. This martial tradition is most appropriate for the Folk Hero, Outlander, Sailor, and Soldier backgrounds.

Key Ability Modifier: Charisma

Bonus Talents:

Equipment sphere:
Amazon Training
Shield sphere, Guarded Stance (Unshielded variant)
Wrestling sphere
Variable:
Amazons gain either the Beastmastery or Berserker sphere.

Starting Equipment:

(a) a chakram or (b) a shortsword
leather armor
a longbow and 20 arrows
An explorer’s pack

Odyssean Rogue: Another new martial tradition for this one! The Conscript’s Knave subclass is the most appropriate choice. Vagrant Soldier can be handled via the Equipment sphere’s Armor Training to gain proficiency in medium armor and shields, while making spears and tridents finessable is handled via the Spear Dancer talent which the below martial tradition has by default. Clever As the Gods can be emulated via the Fencing sphere’s Greater Feint talent, while Notorious Trickster can be emulated via either the Fencing Sphere’s Distracting Blades or the Scoundrel sphere’s Distracting Thievery, while its disadvantage on concentration checks can be emulated via the Guardian sphere’s Mageguard talent. Tenacious Survivor is already emulated via the Conscript’s Second Wind class feature, but Legendary Cunning is a bit harder. The closest abilities are the Beastmastery sphere’s Double Team or the Leadership sphere’s Opening Maneuver, although those are more situational and neither grant advantage on the relevant attack. This is one of the class features that cannot be fully translated to the Spheres system.

New Martial Tradition: Odyssian

Although appearing like your average phalanx soldier, the Odyssian relies upon trickery and guile to overcome their opponents. This martial tradition is most appropriate for the Charlatan, Folk Hero, Noble, and Soldier backgrounds.

Key Ability Modifier: Intelligence

Bonus Talents:

Equipment Sphere:
Pikeman Training, Spear Dancer
Fencing sphere
Scoundrel sphere

Starting Equipment:


(a) a trident or (b) a spear
2 daggers
3 javelins
Leather armor
An explorer’s pack

Demigod Sorcerer: The Sorcerous Blood casting tradition with Inherent Divinity subtradition is practically made for this archetype. Inherited Strength can be emulated as the Destruction sphere with the Ray blast shape, as it can make melee spell attacks. Empowered Magic and Ascendant Sorcery can be emulated via casting tradition boons which increase one’s proficiency bonus, Empowered Abilities and Overcharge being the most appropriate. Divine Resistance’s auto-success on a saving throw doesn’t have an equivalent in the Spheres system, although the Protection sphere’s Resistance talent is the next best thing.

Academy Philosopher Wizard: The archetype works well enough as a Spherecaster Wizard subclass. But for a purist spheres build, the Incanter class is the best choice, with the Ritualist and/or Spellbook casting tradition boons. The Mathematical Principles class feature can be replicated via the Protection sphere’s Friendship talent, while Metaphysical Principles the Universal sphere’s Spellthief dispel talent. Magical Paradox is the hardest to replicate, but the Universal sphere’s Lingering talent is the closest approximation.

Unaffiliated Martial Traditions: Below are martial traditions that don’t fit as easily into any of the above archetypes.

New Martial Tradition: Monster

There are many intelligent beings who lack the ability to wield conventional weapons and armor. But their cunning is enough to make up for this, relying upon their own natural weapons, speed, and strength.

Key Ability Modifier: Wisdom

Bonus Talents:

Equipment Sphere:
Mystic Fists
Athletics sphere
Brute sphere
Variable:
Monsters gain either Armor Training or Unarmored Training from the Equipment sphere.

New Martial Tradition: Reveler

From sadistic maenads to trance dancers of mystery cults, there are those who derive fighting prowess from ecstatic joy and divine revelation. This martial tradition is most appropriate for the Acolyte, Entertainer, Hermit, and Sage backgrounds.

Key Ability Modifier: Charisma

Bonus Talents:

Equipment sphere:
Unarmored Training
Berserker sphere
Warleader sphere
Variable:
Revelers gain either the Barroom sphere or a discipline talent from the Equipment sphere.

Starting Equipment:

(a) A shortbow and 20 arrows or (b) 3 javelins
A greatclub
2 daggers
Clothes (fine)
An entertainer’s pack

New Martial Tradition: Singer of the Skies

The natural flight of the sirens is a gift that their people honed to gain an edge in combat. This martial tradition is appropriate for a siren of any background.

Key Ability Modifier: Charisma

Bonus Talents:

Athletics sphere,
Powerful Wings
Variable: Singers of the Skies gain either the Armor Training or Unarmored Training from the Equipment sphere.
Variable: Singers of the Skies gain a discipline talent of their choice from the Equipment sphere.

Starting Equipment:

(a) A shortbow and 20 arrows or (b) 3 javelins
(a) a quarterstaff or (b) handaxe
2 daggers
(a) leather armor or (b) Clothes (fine)
An explorer's pack
 
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