Urban Arcana Incantations


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Incantations function like spells, except a character need not be a spellcaster to cast them. Anyone can cast an incantation simply by performing the correct ritual gestures and phrases. Incantations don’t use spell slots, so they don’t have to be prepared ahead of time, and there’s no limit on the number of times one can cast an incantation per day. Since they do not use up spell slots, incantations cannot be improved using metamagic feats. Finally, incantations generally have more powerful, far-reaching effects than even 5th-level spells.
There is, of course, a catch. Incantations take much longer to cast than normal spells. Success with an incantation is never assured, and the consequences for failure can be dramatic. The most powerful incantations can require rituals involving multiple participants, strange or expensive material components, or other aspects that make them difficult to cast.
[h=5]Discovering Incantations[/h] The instructions for performing incantations are generally found in various obscure tomes. Such books are filled with “magic spells,” and most of them are utterly bogus. But hidden among the dross is the real stuff, and discerning whether an incantation found in a book will actually work is a matter for experts in arcane lore.
Finding a set of instructions for a particular incantation requires a successful Research check with a DC equal to the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC for the incantation –10. Just learning of the existence of a particular incantation is an easier Research check, with a DC equal to the Knowledge (arcane lore) DC –15.
[h=5]Casting an Incantation[/h] At its core, casting an incantation means having the required incantation components, then succeeding at a number of Knowledge (arcane lore) checks during the incantation’s casting time. Each incantation lists how many Knowledge (arcane lore) checks are required to cast the incantation successfully.
Unless otherwise specified, the caster makes Knowledge (arcane lore) checks every 10 minutes. Failing a Knowledge (arcane lore) check doesn’t mean that the entire incantation is a failure, just that the previous 10 minutes have been wasted. However, if you fail two Knowledge (arcane lore) checks in a row, the incantation immediately fails. The consequences for failure are detailed in the description of the specific incantation. Even if the incantation fails, material components and experience points are still lost and the backlash still takes effect.
Incantation Components: Most incantations require components not unlike spells, including verbal, somatic, focus, and material components. In addition, some require secondary casters (abbreviated SC), cause some sort of backlash (abbreviated B), or cost the caster some experience points (abbreviated XP).
Secondary Casters: Some incantations require multiple participants to cast successfully. These secondary casters (abbreviated SC) are indispensable to the success of the spell. No matter how many people are gathered in the dark room, chanting with candles, only one character—generally the one with the highest Knowledge (arcane lore) check—is the primary caster who’ll make the relevant checks. Secondary casters can’t help the primary caster with the Aid Another rules, but their presence is required for certain aspects of the ritual nonetheless. If an incantation requires some other skill check, any of the secondary casters can make that check if they have a higher bonus than the primary caster. Even if you’re not a required caster of the spell, you can step in and make the non-Knowledge check if you’re better at the relevant skill than the actual caster.
Backlash: Some spells damage or drain the caster in some way. They have a backlash component, generally damage, negative levels, or some other condition. The caster takes the backlash regardless of the success or failure of the spell.
Saves and Spell Resistance: If the incantation allows a save, the formula to calculate it is included in the spell’s description. For checks to overcome spell resistance, divide the incantation’s Knowledge (arcane lore) DC by 2 to get the effective caster level for the spell resistance check.
Incantations as Spell-Like Abilities: Some creatures have spell-like abilities that duplicate the effects of incantations. There’s no chance of failure and no backlash for such spell-like abilities, which don’t require components of any kind and take only an attack action to activate.
[h=5]Failed Incantations[/h] Each incantation has its own consequences for failure (two failed skill checks in a row). In general, they can be divided into the following categories.
Attack: A creature is called from elsewhere to battle the caster (and often any bystanders and secondary casters). The incantation’s description tells the GM what Challenge Rating the creature should have, how it behaves, and how long it persists.
Augment: The incantation was supposed to weaken or destroy its target, but it makes it more powerful instead. A damaging spell might heal its target or cause it to grow in size, for example.
Betrayal: The incantation seemingly succeeds, but the subject of the incantation (or in rare cases the caster) loses all allegiances and gains their opposites. In general, the subject now hates all it loved before the incantation. The subject may keep its new allegiances a secret. Whenever a character attempts an incantation with a chance of betrayal failure, the GM should make the relevant die rolls in secret.
Damage: The simplest consequence of failure, damage is dealt to the caster or the target, depending on the incantation.
Death: Someone—usually the caster or the target—dies. Depending on the incantation, a successful saving throw may avoid the effect of failure.
Delusion: The caster believes the incantation had the desired effect, but in fact it had no effect or a very different one.
Falsehood: Common with divinations, the incantation delivers false results to the caster, but the caster believes the results are true. Whenever a character attempts an incantation with a chance of falsehood failure, the GM should make the relevant die rolls in secret.
Hostile Spell: The caster of the incantation is targeted by a harmful spell or incantation. The spell description specifies the specific spell or incantation, save DC, and so on.
Mirrorcast: The spell has the opposite effect of that intended.
Reversal: The spell targets the caster, rather than the intended target of the incantation.

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