log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E Earthsea Magic in D&D

Mercurius

Legend
The talk of psionics got me thinking (again) about one of my favorite magic systems from literature: the great Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea. If you aren't familiar with it, essentially it involves knowing the "true name" of something, from the "language of making" employed by dragons and wizards. Meaning, you gain power over something if you know its true name - and even people have true names, which they only share with close friends. There are various types of magic users, from weather workers to chanters, and there are also lesser powerful untrained witches. Le Guin uses a tier system of apprentice, sorcerer, wizard, and master, with the Archmage being the head of the School of Roke.

How would you adapt this to D&D 5E? I suppose the easiest part would be to adapt the tiers to something like this:

1-2nd level: apprentice
3-4th (?) level: sorcerer (requires 14 WIS*)
5th+ level: wizard (requires 16 WIS)
11th+ level: master (requires 18 WIS)
17th+ level: applicable to being archmage

(*I'm not convinced that INT would be the best ability score - either WIS or even CHA might make more sense, as power seems to have more to do with will than it does with intellect)

Or something like that. It doesn't exactly fit Earthsea, but the point is to adapt it to 5E.

Without giving too much thought to it, I would think true names could be grouped in levels - like spells. Meaning, a mouse would be a lower "level" name than a dragon. And as you increased in character level, you could learn more names - "name slots." I suppose also the control and power you have over a name would increase as you level up, via a difficulty casting system. Or to be more accurate to Earthsea, names aren't grouped in levels - but your ability to work with them increases. This would make Roke wizards more variable in power, as a low level wizard could know the true name of a dragon, but not be able to do much with it.

I think, overall, it would require a lot more ad hoc improvisation and creativity. If you know the true name of "fire," there could be guidelines as to what you can do with it at different levels, but it would also require the player and DM to come up with their own, unique casting.

Thoughts? How would you do it?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

jasper

Rotten DM
Barf is my though of True Names. It works in fiction. But as a quick and dirty brain storm. Just use the CR for the level of the true name. Add in magical tomes which gives you random or specific true names. "Hmm look what this is in my old 1E PHB it is the true name of Bob the wonder pony."
 


Quartz

Adventurer
If you know the true name of "fire," there could be guidelines as to what you can do with it at different levels, but it would also require the player and DM to come up with their own, unique casting.

For this particular aspect, you could look at Path Magic (from the old Dragon magazine). I don't think Path Magic works so well for other aspects of Name magic.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I think magic can be skinned that way now by having themed magic users. Pick two or three themes and then stick to them exclusively as you level up. Have conjuring be a key part as well as a protections.

I always got the impression that a lot of earthsea magic was abjuration or conjugation based with a little necromancy or alteration thrown in for good measure.

Hold portal is clearly the first spell you have to learn!
 


cbwjm

Hero
From memory, Earthsea magic also have names change the further away from your point of origin. The main wizard took a trip to find something/someone and his names weren't working to affect anything. Not sure I'd want to put that into a DnD system that uses this, but maybe it would be interesting.
 



dave2008

Legend
Is this just curiosity or are you trying to play games in the world of Earthsea or just recreate some of the flavor? Are you looking for simple solutions that get you close (your naming convention & UA Onomancy) or more extensive that really try to emulate the magic in the books (custom magic system)?
 

dave2008

Legend
Honestly, I wouldn't. Any adaptation of Earthsea to 5e would be about as faithful of an adaptation as the SyFy Channel one.
Why is that? You can use the world of Earthsea pretty much straight up in D&D, they only thing you need is a new magic system or am I missing something?
 

I think you're better off grouping effects into broad categories.

True Name: Fire
  • Create fire: Deal fire damage to a single target or to multiple targets
  • Destroy fire: Quench fires or deal necrotic damage to fire creature
  • Charm: Charm a creature of fire

True Name: Plant
  • Entangle: Restrain creatures with plants
  • Wither: Deal necrotic damage to plant creatures
  • Locate: locates plants of a specific type

True Name: Water
  • Freeze: Creates a layer of ice over standing water, freezes rain to hail
  • Conjure water: Drink up everyone
  • Tidal Wave: Damage + pushing effect, quench fire

etc.

Possible True Names: fire, water, air, earth, plant, animal, mind, body, dragons, magic, illusions/shadow, space/time
 

Dioltach

Adventurer
Or take the Epic Spellcasting rules from 3rd edition, and require a Spellcraft check for every spell besides something basic. So Gust of Wind would be just the spell, but if you want to change the wind to steer your boat to safety in a storm, you make a Spellcraft check. Summoning a hawk to land on your wrist is basic, but to call a dragon to talk to you requires a significant Spellcraft check -- one that you can get bonuses on depending on how much time you've spent researching the dragon's name (like Ged did with the Dragon of Pendor).
 

nevin

Explorer
I think you're better off grouping effects into broad categories.

True Name: Fire
  • Create fire: Deal fire damage to a single target or to multiple targets
  • Destroy fire: Quench fires or deal necrotic damage to fire creature
  • Charm: Charm a creature of fire

True Name: Plant
  • Entangle: Restrain creatures with plants
  • Wither: Deal necrotic damage to plant creatures
  • Locate: locates plants of a specific type

True Name: Water
  • Freeze: Creates a layer of ice over standing water, freezes rain to hail
  • Conjure water: Drink up everyone
  • Tidal Wave: Damage + pushing effect, quench fire

etc.

Possible True Names: fire, water, air, earth, plant, animal, mind, body, dragons, magic, illusions/shadow, space/time
no if you are going to affect a creature of fire you'd have to have the name of that creature otherwise planar magic breaks. for plants that might work, though it could get dicey if you have to have a seperate name for each variety. Say the rose bush has pink flowers instead of red.

In earth sea each body of water and possibly each region of each body or even in the case of large bodies of water the true names of each current.

there wouldn't be truenames for illusions but if you knew the true names of other things you could probably create illusions of them.

I don't think Earth Sea magic had any thing that effected space and time if you were being true to it you'd probably not have that kind of magic.

The biggest problem I see with this in modern D&D is any heavy Skill focused Character could easily become overpowered. Also keep in mind in earthsea the easiest way to screw the players is to spread thier truename to the world. you'd have to think about every aspect of magic or your game could spin off in some wierd messed up ways.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Why is that? You can use the world of Earthsea pretty much straight up in D&D, they only thing you need is a new magic system or am I missing something?
I can't say that I agree with this. There are so many other TTRPGs out there, including Archipelago, that would be more suitable for Earthsea's style of fantasy and magic.
 

practicalm

Explorer
The magic system of D&D really doesn't work like the Earthsea one at all. There are better systems to try to work with.
Mage: The Ascension
HERO
GURPS
Fate
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
How wonky do you want to make it?

Honestly, you can just rule that in order to work magic at all, you need to know the True Names etc; by this logic, what separates a member of the Wizard (or sorcerer or cleric or whatever) class from the Fighter etc. class is that the Wizard understands and knows how to manipulate True Names. Bam, done, with no new mechanics to learn.

Alternately, you could rule that the Sorcerer is the True Name caster, and the True Names are what allows the sorc's metamagic to work.

Or perhaps cantrips are minor magicks anyone can learn with though time and dedication. But to cast leveled spells you need True Names.

Don't be afraid to just jettison a class or two to keep the theme consistent. For example, pick one or two full casters and justify it from there. Maybe in this system warlocks gain their power by having their patron provide the True Names, this making an exception to the general rule of power acquisition.

And the Magic Initiate feat represents having picked up a couple of minor tricks but knowing one True Name (leveled spell).

I see a real (unfortunate) tendency for homebrewers to try and couple every new concept with new mechanics, and I think it's frankly unnecessary. You can model most things just by changing how you describe the causes and effects of existing mechanics.
 
Last edited:

Dausuul

Legend
Honestly, I wouldn't. Any adaptation of Earthsea to 5e would be about as faithful of an adaptation as the SyFy Channel one.
This is kind of where I'm at. The Earthsea series, like the Lord of the Rings, is very focused on the spiritual journey of its characters, and the magic of Earthsea is a core part of that. D&D is not built for spiritual journeys. A skilled DM and players can force it into that mold, but it's not a natural fit at all.

You could design a "true name" magic system for D&D, but it wouldn't capture the feel and flavor of Earthsea, any more than the many imitation-Tolkien elements capture the feel and flavor of Middle-Earth. I would rather start with the idea of a true-name magic system and build one from the ground up to fit D&D's swords-and-sorcery milieu.

(But then, I'm kind of a snob about that sort of thing. The imitation-Tolkien elements in D&D really grind my gears precisely because they rip off so many of the details while utterly failing to capture the essence.)
 

Aldarc

Legend
The magic system of D&D really doesn't work like the Earthsea one at all. There are better systems to try to work with.
Mage: The Ascension
HERO
GURPS
Fate
The Secrets of Cats for Fate uses Warding, Naming, Seeking, and Shaping as magic skills. That's closer to the sort of magic found in Earthsea.
 

dave2008

Legend
I can't say that I agree with this. There are so many other TTRPGs out there, including Archipelago, that would be more suitable for Earthsea's style of fantasy and magic.
I wasn't asking for agreement, I was asking for an explanation ;) I am not familiar with Archipelago, so if you care to explain, what else beside the magic system do you think would need to be changed?

Also, the whole point of the OP was they want to adapt it to 5e, so saying use another system isn't helpful. They don't want to play Earthsea, they want to play D&D 5e Earthsea.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top