Behind the Spells: Magic Aura is the second in a series of releases produced for Kobold Quarterly by Tricky Owlbear Publishing, Inc. For those unfamiliar with the series, “Behind the Spells” provides a historical background, secret effects, and related material to one of the classic spells of the world’s most famous fantasy roleplaying game. [More…]

Each “Behind the Spells” release is narrated by an ancient gold dragon named Maxolt Alberiim. Actually, Maxolt is the name of the human fighter-mage the wyrm wears as a disguise when he travels the land, but HTML won’t display Draconic characters properly. We hope you enjoy these short forays into the histories of everyone’s favorite spells and invite you to peruse the rest of the “Behind the Spells” pdf catalog at an online vendor near you. For now, enjoy magic aura!

The Creator
Some spells (magic missile and fireball for example) are spoken of with awe and reverence by every young mage learning his craft. Magic aura, on the other hand, is the province of con-artists and does not exactly inspire magelings to take up its study. After all, magic aura is a subtle illusion—a spell of deception—and provides little of the flashy effectiveness of other spells. Is it a surprise to anyone that it came from the mind of a gnome? Perhaps not, but the circumstances of the spell’s birth are far from what you might expect.

Many centuries ago, a gnome named Vicarr Mogrinet practiced the art of magic from his home in the foothills of some now-forgotten western province. His village bordered a forest; on the far side lived a small community of elves. Over time, Vicarr befriended his elven counterpart, a wizard named F’Larrin, and the two met every few weeks to exchange notes on what new magics they had either devised or heard about, and sometimes just to enjoy each other’s company. On his way to one such meeting, Vicarr heard shouting. Ever the cautious gnome, the wizard took refuge in a hollow tree nearby, its branches decorated by heavy carpets of golden lichen.

The gnome’s caution proved warranted as a bloodied elven youth crashed through the underbrush ahead and fell to the ground not 10 feet away. Seeing no immediate pursuit, Vicarr rushed to the elf’s side and recognized him as F’Larrin’s assistant. The elf rasped that his village was attacked, then pointed to a rune-carved stick of rowan wood and whispered, “Keep… safe.” When the elf’s heart beat its last, Vicarr snatched up the item and returned to his hiding place. Moments later, five human bandits and a black-robed mage came crashing through the underbrush on the elf’s trail.

Vicarr clutched the elven item to his breast as the mage gestured and murmured — the gnome recognized the signs of a detection spell. Almost immediately, the human squinted in pain and cursed, “Damned trees are magical!” The bandits made a quick search of the ground and the corpse’s clothing, then headed back the way they came. Vicarr could hardly fathom his good fortune and cast a detection spell of his own to see what had foiled the human’s spell. A quick scan of the trees revealed that the peculiar lichen growth glowed brightly with innate magic.

Never one to pass up a magical find, the gnome cut a swath of the golden stuff and quickly made his way home. He placed the lichen in a glass container and then Vicarr made a detailed examination of F’Larrin’s wand—for what else could such an item could be. But beyond a strong aura of abjuration magic, Vicarr could not tell what the wand was used for. As day turned to night, news of Vicarr’s encounter spread throughout his village. The gnome worried that the bandits would find their way to his people and destroy his home until the elven wand was retrieved. A glance over at the lichen gave Vicarr an idea and he muttered, “You might just save me again, my curious fungus.”

In a few short hours Vicarr worked out the logistics for a new spell and by the time he had finished, his assistant had returned with a rowan branch nearly identical to the elven wand. As the elder illusionist carved runes onto the wood, he explained his plan to the younger gnome. “The bandits will not approach if we give them what they’re after,” Vicarr said smugly. The new spell would place a magical aura around the fake wand, and he would leave the decoy in a location far enough from their village but close enough to the road the bandits would travel.

Unfortunately for Vicarr, his plan saved the village but doomed himself. While planting the fake wand by the road, a bandit scout took the gnome by surprise and slew him out of hand. The bandits had been hired by a powerful warlord who wanted the elven item for reasons unknown. History does not provide a clear picture of the wand’s eventual resting place, for it was lost soon after Vicarr’s death.

Some scholars say it was the key to an extraplanar vault of elven treasures. Others proclaim the item a druidic artifact that turned nature against one’s enemies. No matter, as I’m certain some intrepid adventurers will eventually discover the item’s location and powers. For purposes of this story, remember only that Vicarr’s new spell—magic aura—survived its creator’s death and rose to the classic status it enjoys today (a testament to that ingenious gnome).

Spell Secret
Normally, spells of illusions are used to deceive anyone looking at them, wizard or not. Magic aura, however, attempts to fool only those people who are looking for the particular effect it creates. With a little creative tweaking (and luck!), you can fool an enemy with this spell in a combat situation.

With a successful DC 16 Spellcraft check, you can cast magic aura on yourself. For the next 12 hours, any time your body is struck by an attack (physical or magical), your mind reacts by creating an illusionary wound. Even if the attack strikes but causes no damage, an appropriate glamer appears (a bloodied slash from a sword or the burn of a fireball for example).

This illusion in no way holds up to close scrutiny but the effect grants a +5 circumstance bonus to a Bluff check to feign critical injury and may convince your foe to ignore you if more combatants are nearby (all at the GM’s discretion). Illusions created in this way can be dismissed at will.

Related Research
I’m sure some of you are wondering what the story is behind that golden magical lichen. Why haven’t I heard of that before and where can I get some? Glad you asked!

Dubbed Vicarr’s lichen after its discoverer, this particular lichen grows draped from tree limbs throughout the world. It defies botanical criteria such as temperature, humidity, and altitude and grows wherever it pleases, emanating the same magical aura as the magic aura spell. Vicarr’s lichen is extremely rare and, once harvested, deteriorates within a week’s time no matter the precautions taken to preserve it. Despite its nebulous magical signature, the lichen provides a unique magical reaction when alchemically treated.

New Alchemical Item: Vicarr’s Lichen
When properly harvested and subjected to an alchemical process, the ambient magical field of this thick golden lichen becomes enhanced. The effect hampers any magics activated within 10 feet of the lichen. Spells and items already in effect when they come into contact with the field are unaffected. Those activated while inside the radius must make a DC 11 caster level check or they do not function. Once created, Vicarr’s lichen remains effective for two days, after which it shrivels into dust. Multiple swaths in one location do not enhance the dampening effect.
Craft DC 35; Cost 60 gp/sq. ft.

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