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Magical Wastelands: Battlefields

Magical Wastelands: Battlefields

This series looks at the corruption that the extended use of violent and uncontrolled magic might cause on the landscape, from pollution to neglect to the destructive aftermath of conflicts. We begin by looking at magical battlefields.

Popular culture and memoir alike announce, “War is hell.” JRR Tolkien is said to have written the The Lord of the Rings partially in response to his experiences during World War II. The horrors of conflict should never be minimized, but in the course of your game, your characters might come across the remnants of a fantastic battlefield. What would it look like? What might they find? While modern weapons may not exist, spellcasters do fling magical effects while monstrous creatures rampage and alchemical concoctions corrupt, all of which might create an otherworldly landscape when left to swirl and mingle alongside the unquiet dead.

While adventurers might engage in two or three skirmishes in the course of their day, it is rare that they might engage in the kind of hours-long conflicts purported in historical record, like the Battle of Agincourt, where enemies fought for 3 hours, and the 3 days of battle at Thermopylae. And just as the emperors of Constantinople deployed Greek fire against their enemies, rulers of a fantasy realm where magic exists will seek out more and more effective ways to turn magical advantages into battlefield weapons. Such research might produce something like living spells, engines of eldritch destruction, left to rampage across the field at opposing troops.

A magical battlefield is likely full of scorched earth, craters, partially melted stones, smoldering tree trunks, and the terrible, broken remains of the unfortunates who lost their lives in the fight. Mists might creep over the land, undead rising from those who left tasks incomplete, and dangers likely still lurk amidst the wreckage. Here are two example living spells left to roam the battlefield, the handlers killed during the fighting.

Living Starfall

This construct appears as an undulating aurora, occasionally punctuated with arcs like shooting stars.

Living Starfall

Large construct, unaligned
Armor Class 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points 73 (7d10 + 35)
Speed 25 ft., fly 25 ft.

StrDexConWisIntCha
10 (+0)20 (+5)20 (+20)11 (+0)3 (−4)6 (−2)

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities radiant
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, poisoned, prone
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages Common, Infernal
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)

Amorphous. The living spell can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Magic Resistance. The living spell has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Actions

Multiattack. The living spell makes two Magical Strike attacks.

Magical Strike. Melee Spell Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (5d6 + 5) radiant damage.

Spell Mimicry (Recharge 5–6). The living spell creates five bolts, each targeting one creature or object within 60 feet. Multiple bolts may target the same object. Each targeted creature must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) radiant damage and being knocked prone and blinded on a failed save or half as much damage and no additional effects on a successful one. Excess bolts strike the ground harmlessly.

Living Detonate Corpse

A boiling cloud of red and black smoke billows toward you with skulls, flames, and skeletal hands occasionally visible near its surface.

Living Detonate Corpse

Large construct, unaligned
Armor Class 18 (natural armor)
Hit Points 73 (7d10 + 35)
Speed 25 ft., fly 25 ft.

StrDexConWisIntCha
10 (+0)20 (+5)20 (+20)11 (+0)3 (−4)6 (−2)

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities necrotic
Condition Immunities blinded, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, poisoned, prone
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages Common, Infernal
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)

Amorphous. The living spell can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.

Magic Resistance. The living spell has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Actions

Multiattack. The living spell makes two Magical Strike attacks.

Magical Strike. Melee Spell Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (5d6 + 5) necrotic damage.

Spell Mimicry (Recharge 5–6). The living spell causes five Small or Medium corpses or two Large corpses or one Huge corpse within 90 feet to explode. Each creature within 20 feet of the explosion must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) piercing damage on a failed save. Detonated corpses must be within 30 feet of each other and cannot be brought back to life with a raise dead, requiring instead a resurrection spellor similar.

Other Potential Battlefield Living Spells

To create your own living spells on the battlefield, consider these other spells from Deep Magic:

  • deep freeze
  • exsanguinating cloud
  • fusillade of ice
  • spinning axes
  • steam blast
  • wave of corruption

Equipment from the Field

The inspiration for many a magic item is forged on the battlefield.

The Sentinel Shroud

Wondrous item (uncommon)

This gauzy, charcoal-dyed cloak clasps around the neck, falling over any pack or lying comfortably underneath while not impairing the wearer’s movement. Three times per long rest, you may, as a reaction that does not provoke opportunity attacks, activate the magic to grant yourself the effects of the sanctuary spellfor 30 minutes (DC 15). Creatures who succeed against the save cannot be affected by it again until after you’ve taken a long rest.

In addition, you are invisible against constructs and undead (as the invisibility spell). They cannot see you unless you act against them or the effect is dispelled.(The shroud is considered a 4th-level effect for dispellingattempts.)

In Midgard: Example Locales

Several battlefield sites in Midgard lie devastated as magical wastelands. The Wasted West remains the most prominent, littered with blasted spaces that stretch out under the unblinking gaze of nearly a dozen outlandishly gargantuan horrors summoned from the Void beyond, frozen at a glacial pace by immense magics from the Great Mage Wars. The Red Wastes are more recent, resulting from conflicts between Great Khandiria and the Mharoti Empire. The Imperial defeat at the Battle of Wheeling Angels included hosts from Ishadian lords, and the clash of dragons, celestials, and mighty alchemical weapons left the space devastated. And for a more ancient example, there’s the Lost Army’s Field in the Sarklan Desert, near Nuria Natal.

Story Seed: Lost Redoubt Route

As a famous general called a retreat and attempted to fall back to a nearby, hidden mustering point, living spells overwhelmed their forces. The whole unit was lost, after being turned to stone and partially melted by acid. Uncovered by a storm, adventurers discovered the fractured remains of the statues and brought them to a sage for identification. Verified as the general’s soldiers, the sage wants the characters to recover the chest of documents that divinations suggest lie within that ruined landscape. With those papers, the general’s hiding place and important relics could be discovered. Living spells still dominate the area, making any attempt extremely dangerous. However, the general was trying to evacuate precious national heirlooms. Finding them would bring great renown.

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