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Sigil Mage

What are archetype packages?

Archetype packages are sets of class abilities characters may select in place of some of the normal abilities gained from a class. The concept was first introduced in the Genius Guide to Archer Archetypes, and the archetypes presented in this product are fully compatible with Archer Archetypes (though you certainly don’t need that book to use the new material in this product). While we went into a fair amount of detail on how and why we developed archetype packages in Archer Archetypes and don’t want to repeat ourselves too much, it’s important we cover the basics for people who are first encountering the concept here.

This book was written with the assumption that every class has at least one archetype package built into it which represents a standard set of powers that all members of the class receive (see below for details). It is designed with the premise that one can remove some of the standard abilities of a class and replace them with new options that, while different from what the core rulebook says, have no detrimental effect on the class’s mechanical balance or ability to fill it’s traditional role in an adventuring team.

An obvious example of an existing archetype package can be seen in the cleric, who gets to pick two domains. These are in addition to the cleric’s core abilities (and clerics have a broad range of options even without domains). Even if a player neglected to ever select those domains, the character would be able to perform the cleric’s core function and maintain the same role in a well-built team. However, over 20 levels these domains give the cleric access to nine spell slots, eighteen spells known, four special abilities, and in some cases up to two additional class skills or bonus feats.

In the context of this product, the cleric’s two domains represent a single archetype package—the Domain Servant. That package becomes just one option a cleric can take, with the new archetypes in this volume representing some alternative options. A player who wants to play a cleric that also has a smattering of arcane spells available to her (perhaps as a priest serving a deity of spells and magic) gives up the Domain Servant archetype package and gains one of the new arcane archetypes described in the following pages instead.

Using Arcane Archetypes

The most basic way to use archetype packages is to allow a character, when taking his first level of a new class, to simply swap the archetype package that is normally part of that class our in favor of one of the new packages from this volume. In other words, characters gain these new abilities by foregoing access to some of their class’s traditional abilities. This is limiting, but no more so than most of the other decisions one makes when creating a character. (A cleric, after all, cannot change domains after they’ve been selected, so why would one be allowed to pick a new archetype package a few levels later?)

Whenever new options are added to a campaign, though, it’s a good idea to consider ways to allow existing characters to gain access to them. In this case, that would mean finding a way to let characters swap out some of their long-time abilities in favor of a new archetype package. In our cleric example, a character who had already chosen two domains and used their abilities would give up those powers in favor of those from the new archetype.

This exchange is not entirely beyond logical explanation. If you consider archetypes as being similar to modern day occupations, it’s easy to justify a character learning new ones occasionally. As an optional rule, you may allow characters to change one archetype package whenever they gain an even-numbered class level. The GM may require a character to have a source of guidance in order to do this—a character with the desired archetype to act as teacher, a manual of instruction, or even divine inspiration. Upon taking a new archetype package, all abilities, feats, and skill ranks associated with the old archetype package are lost. (The skill ranks can be taken from whatever skills the player prefers when an old archetype is abandoned, and may add them in any configuration that falls within the standard rules for skill ranks when they are gained from a new package.)

While a character losing abilities and skills he once possessed may seem unrealistic, there’s no other mechanically balanced option to allow existing characters to gain archetypes. In the case of magic powers, it’s no great stretch to say that whatever energy once fueled them is now instead channeled into the new abilities. As for feats and skills, they can be explained as activities that require constant practice. They are not technically “lost” or “forgotten” when the character begins studying new areas of expertise, but the character falls out of practice and becomes unable to perform them sufficiently well, thus he may no longer use them in the game.

These answers may not cover every situation, but for most campaigns they should suffice to explain why a character’s abilities suddenly change. (If the campaign, GM, or players do not find these answers satisfactory, they should not use this optional rule. This will result in returning archetype packages to being options that may only be taken when a character first takes a level of a base class, which remains a balanced and viable way to handle these new alternative powers.)

Sigil Mages are spellcasters whose bodies are marked with the complex formulas and sigils used to learn, understand, and cast spells. Sigil Mages become living spellbooks and personal histories, their powers and knowledge literally written upon their bodies. While this forces Sigil Mages to be open about their powers, the benefits they gain from incorporating such arcane marks on themselves more than compensates in most situations. In fact, many Sigil Mages prefer to proudly display their markings and flaunt their powers, daring the world to say a cross word about it. Sigil Mages are also known as painted mages, runecasters, flesh scrolls, and marked ones.

Most Sigil Mages come from cultures and traditions that considered magical aptitude as an ability too powerful to be kept secret. To ensure it was obvious who the spellcasters were, they began marking the skin of anyone able to perform magic. Over time, the spellcasters took possession of the meaning of these marks, turning them from tattoos of identification to extravagant signs of warning—signifying that the bearer was not to be trifled with. While such cultures are often conservative, the spellcasters they produce are often as flashy and flamboyant as possible, proudly taking any excuse to expose their flesh and flaunt the normal rules of society.

Other Sigil Mages are the victims of arcane accidents, the result of explosive runes setting off a chain reaction in nearby warded spellbooks and tomes on glyphs. Others are blessed (or perhaps cursed) by the gods of runes and writing to be walking icons of the written word. Unlike their flamboyant brethren, these Sigil Mages are often embarrassed by their tapestry of flesh, and may try to hide their true nature (usually with little success).

Restrictions: Spellcasters Only

Written In The Flesh (Ex)

The skin of a Sigil Mage is covered in magical marks. These are the core of a Sigil Mage’s power, as well as impressive warnings to any who see the marks. A young Sigil Mage always begins with marks on at least parts of the face and hands, and quickly expands so that they reach to the arms, legs, and torso. As a Sigil Mage grows in power the marks begin to appear automatically, though many Sigil Mages still enhance these marks with brands, tattoos, piercings, and attention-grabbing attire. The sigils glow slightly, their illumination even shining (mutedly) through normal clothes.

When a large number of the sigils are clearly visible (not covered by clothing or gear), the Sigil Mage gains a +1 bonus to caster level and a +4 bonus to Intimidate checks from the power of the glowing sigils. To make that large a section of skin visible, the sigil mage cannot wear armor of any kind, nor any outfit that grants nonmagic circumstance bonuses to Fortitude saves against exposure to cold weather, and must be in light encumbrance. Most sigil mages wear courtier’s outfits or entertainer’s outfits.

The sigils remain visible, glowing slightly, even when disguised or when you are in a different form. You suffer a –10 penalty to all Disguise checks to appear not to be a Sigil Mage. Any creature able to examine your skin extensively gains a +4 circumstance bonus to all Knowledge checks made in regards to you.

For spellcasters that require spellbooks, these tattoos also replace the need for an can create a sigil spell any time you prepare spells for the day. Choose a single spell slot and fill it with two spells, both of which must be lower level than the slot itself. When you cast the spell, select which of the linked spells to cast and treat it as if its spell level was that of the spell slot used.

For example, Swift is a 9th-level Sigil Mage wizard preparing her spells for the day. She knows numerous second-level spell, including acid arrow and resist energy. For one third-level spell slot, rather than prepare a third-level spells, she prepares a sigil spell linked to acid arrow and resist energy. When she expends that prepared spell slot, she decides which linked spell to cast, treating it as a 3rd-level spell.

Spontaneous Sigil Spells

If you are a spontaneous spellcaster (such as bards and sorcerers), you can choose a sigil spell as one of your spells known at a given level. Choose two spells from the sorcerer/wizard spell list that are lower level than the spell slot of the spell you are learning. When you cast the spell, select which of the linked spells to cast and treat it as if its spell level was that of the spell slot used.

For example, Fharhanna is a Sigil Mage sorceress. Upon reaching 7th level she gains an additional 3rd-level spell known. Rather than learning a normal new 3rd-level spell, she decides to learn a sigil spell. She selects two 2nd-level spells, scorching ray and web. Her 3rd-level sigil spell is listed as “sigil spell—scorching ray, web” on her list of 3rd-level spells known. She can now cast scorching ray or web as 3rd-level spells, using a 3rd-level spell slot.

Expunge (Ex)

A Sigil Mage has one major vulnerability—her powers are directly tied to the marks on her body. If one of those marks is damaged or removed, she loses access to the spell it represented. There are two different effects that can cause this, each detailed below. Regardless of the method a foe uses to expunge your sigils, the effect is temporary. You always regain access to all your spells when you regain the use of your daily abilities (the sigils reappear on your body in the original spot if possible, and elsewhere if not). While a spell’s sigils are expunged, you act in all ways as if you did not know that spell.

Erase

A foe can touch you with the erase spell in an effort to remove a single spell’s worth of sigils. In addition to having to succeed at a touch attack, the foe must make a caster level check (DC 11 + your caster level). If that is successful, you are allowed a Will save (DC 10 + spell level + attacker’s spellcasting modifier). Only if the touch attack and caster check succeed, and your save fails, do you lose access to one spell. The foe may make a DC 20 Spellcraft check to try to target a external spellbook. When a new spell is learned, it is inscribed onto the caster’s skin using special inks she makes herself (or has a body art specialist do it for her). The caster then takes the time to learn the newly inscribed spell. While this process is different from scribing material into a spellbook, it takes the same amount of time and has the same cost. And just as a wizard can allow others to learn from his spellbook, a sigil mage may allow them to learn from the sigils on her body (though she must be present for the entire learning process to do so). In some campaigns, the GM may decided to require a sigil mage to record where on her body each spell is located, and that spot must be exposed for another caster to learn the spell.

Sigil Lore (Sp)

You can cast read magic as a move action at will. You add half your class level to all Spellcraft checks regarding sigils and runes, including any to identify spells that can be affected by an erase, or have ‘glyph,’ ‘sigil,’ or ‘rune’ in the spell title.

Sigil Spell (Su)

Because your body is covered in the arcane formula for spells, you can sometimes expand your spellcasting options by using your own flesh as a template. Rather preparing or learning a spell normally, you can create a sigil spell that connects the spells written on two locations of your living tapestry of spell formulas. While you can only cast one of the linked spells, you choose which at the time of casting. Exactly how sigil spell works depends on what kind of spellcaster you are, as detailed below.

Prepared Sigil Spells: If you are a spellcaster that prepares spells in advance (such as the cleric, druid, and wizard), you specific spell to expunge. Otherwise, roll randomly to see what spell is affected.

Damage: Since your sigils cover your flesh, damage to you has a chance of striking through one or more of them, cutting off access to one spell. Each time you are struck by a confirmed critical hit or roll a 1 on the die roll for a saving throw against a spell that deals damage, you must make a DC 15 Fortitude save. On a failed save, you lose access to a single spell known— randomly determine which spell it is.

Variants

Why Do Some Arcane Archetypes Grant Divine Powers?

Two of the arcane archetype packages presented here (Acolyte and Initiate) seem more like divine archetypes, as they give limited access to divine spells and powers. So what are they doing in a book about arcane archetypes? Simply put, they are attractive options for characters that already have arcane powers. While we could have restricted this book to archetype packages that grant arcane powers, we wanted to be sure there were lots of options for bards, sorcerers, and wizards as well. While we already have several of those (Sigil Mage and Spellblaze), we decided to err on the side of awesome and include a few magic-related archetype packages that give out divine powers, which we were sure would be in high demand among players of arcane spellcasters.

Not to worry. When we do the Genius Guide to Divine Archetypes, there will be lots more cool options to include!

Section 15: Copyright Notice

The Genius Guide To: Arcane Archetypes. Copyright 2010, Super Genius Games. Author: Owen K.C. Stephens