On the Wizards Panoply: Rules & Talismans

A few months ago +Benjamin Baugh created a post about the accoutrements of wizards on Google+. It's a great idea and I wanted to examine the suggestions in greater depth, both providing more options and ideas, collecting some of the articles written about the items so far, and expanding on the general idea.

The objects presented are talismans, foci, familiars, cabals, raiments, servants, pacts, and sanctums, in order of difficulty of acquirement.

Humans themselves are relatively poor conduits of magical or elemental energy.

The basic conceit of this system is that humans are incapable of safely wielding any magic beyond the first level of power. 

Attempts to cast a second level spell or higher roll 1d6 plus spell level on the following table. If you have exceptional intelligence (13+) you may subtract 1 from the roll. If an effect is rolled more than once a session, move up to the next higher effect on the list.

2. Spell functions normally.
3. Spell functions normally, but magical energies have warped your aura. -2 or disadvantage on all saving throws for 1 session.
4. Spell fails and is lost from memory.
5. Spell functions normally, but magical backlash occurs. Take 1d6 damage per spell level.
6. Spell functions normally, but magical explosion occurs. Take 1d6 damage per spell level in 30 foot radius.
7. Spell fails, but magical explosion as above.
8. Spell nominally fails, wild magical energy is released, roll on wild magic table.
9. Spell fails, and you have attracted the attention of an extraplanar being who has taken offense at your arrogance. It begins hunting you.
10. Spell fails and you suffer an immediate brain aneurysm and die.
11. Spell fails and you are immediately and irrevocably lobotomized.
12. Spell functions normally, but your spirit and personality are annihilated and you are possessed by a demon
13. Spell fails. Magical energies fluxuate out from the caster, instantly slaying the caster and all living creatures and beings within 60 feet.
14. Spell fails. Magical devastation strikes the surrounding lands, in a radius of 1d10 miles + 1d4 miles per spell level.
15. You are instantly erased from existence as if you never lived.

Designer's note: Why bother with the table? 
Clearly, we could just say "No, you can't cast second level spells or above." but there are several good reasons to include such a table. 
Firstly, the entries help define the setting. In the setting above, magic is likely viewed with suspicion, because of the devastation it can cause. If you change and replace entries with polymorphs and mutations, the fear becomes not of devastation, but of corruption of the soul. If anyone could attempt a ninth level spell, and cause magical devastation out to 9-46 miles, that might make the unregulated practice of magic something to pay attention to (e.g. restrict, legislate, or criminalize). 
Secondly, it allows players to make stupid insane risks that really affect the campaign world. You aren't saying no, you are saying "this is the way the world works". 
1d6 with two modifiers (spell level and a one point adjustment for high intelligence) is just about as complicated as you would want to get with something that should only come up very rarely. 

This drawback makes the acquisition of a panoply meaningful (I can cast higher level spells) without immediately increasing the power of the wizard, who is already plenty powerful.

System Adjustments

I'm going to note that in my B/X style games, I use a Bell Curve Magic System where casters have a pool of dice to cast spells and very limited spell lists (no more than 8 spells of each level). In that particular system, only allowing additional dice instead of higher level spells from the panoply works. In 5e style games since nearly every single class is a spellcasting class (Every class excepting the Barbarian class has a spellcasting option and there are three pure spellcasting classes) I'd avoid using such a system. I haven't played enough 5e to know for sure, but so far at level 6, fighting classes seem completely on par with spellcasters.


  • Attempts to cast magic of a level higher than 1st require a roll on the table above. 
  • This limit can be increased by the acquisition of accoutrements. They may be acquired in any order.
  • Each accoutrement acquired increases the level of spells the caster can cast by one. 
  • No type of accoutrement can be applied more than once, even if you own more than one. Each one only counts towards spell levels you can cast once. 
  • These are generally acquired and lost during play. 
  • If lost or destroyed, that type of thing can't be used again until you have gained a level or a year and a day have passed. 


A small personal object used to concentrate magical power.  You can only have a single talisman, but can make one for yourself with time and tools.   Each spell level invested in a Talisman grants a +1 bonus to saving throws.  -Benjamin Baugh

The first item suggested is a relatively simple one. The talisman allows the caster to cast second level spells, in addition to allowing/requiring them to sacrifice spell spells for a small bonus. What other types of talismans and items can their be? Satyre over on the idle blog Fame & Fortune made a post describing some common minor bonuses available on talismans. These include effects like bonuses to reactions, slow magical healing, a small bonus to stealth, rerolling saves, and protections from a specific type of attack. Any of these would be reasonable bonuses for an item such as a talisman.

Adding in the cost of a spell level for an effect or increased effect (or in the Bell Curve system, assigning a die) seems like an excellent trade off for a "magic item" that isn't really magic. Some other ideas for effects from Talismans include: preservation of youth, a continuous minor protection effect from extraplanar creatures, an immunity against a specific type of effect (poisons, charms, etc.), minor damage reduction, or a small bonus to a specific knowledge or skill.

Drawbacks to talismans can include: A malaise that affects nearby people with ennui and fatigue, a corruption of your aura, an odd smell or scent, minor physical changes (nails of iron, or pupiless eyes, for example), minor psychological effects such as hypo-mania, minor delusions, mild paranoia or phobia, increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or unusual visual phenomena.

Another fascinating use of talismans for higher level casters, is as a phylactery or soul storage device, providing a way for the spellcaster to take over another persons body, while leaving their own body in stasis.

Talismans can be created at a cost of 100 gold pieces per level of the spell or per hit die they are expected to contain. It takes 1 week per 100 gold pieces of the cost, and the time to create can be cut in half by doubling the expense.

Note that the spell levels invested at attunement or creation cannot be recovered without the destruction of the talisman. If lost it will require "great struggle" to regain the invested power.


Talisman of the Domino: This talisman prevents the touch of living things. It requires a third level spell slot to function and costs 300 gold and three weeks to create. Plants and underbrush are shoved aside at the users passing, allowing travel through brambles and briars without hinderance. Attacks and magic spells by the claws and tendrils of living creatures and plants are treated as if the user has a +1 bonus to their armor class. The users skin is affected with a black and white large checkered pattern, with a division down the center of their face, one-half white and one-half black.

Talisman of Magical Warding: This talisman protects the mage from enchantments and spells. It can be created providing a bonus to saving throws versus magic from +1 to +5. It requires an invested spell slot equal to the value of the bonus. A +4 bonus to saves versus magic requires a fourth level spell slot. It costs 100 gold and takes 1 week per spell slot invested. As a side effect, this talisman disrupts your magical aura. If your save bonus is +2 are higher and you are not already subject to spell mishaps/surges you now are. If you are affected by spell mishaps, you roll twice and the Dungeon Master selects the result of the effect.

footnote: my one reservation about this series is that wizards already have enough nice things. I wouldn't implement a system like this, without drawbacks or a similar system and opportunity for fighters specifically (and other classes secondarily) to have options to acquire similar effects.

Hack & Slash 
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  1. At first glance, this system seems tempting to use, with the caveat that magic-users can cast unlimited spells per day. Just enough rope to hang yourself with, as it were. In that regard it would be similar to the magic system in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, where you can cast a spell any old time, but every single time you do you risk gaining Insanity Points or unleashing the powers of Chaos. (Or Wrath of the Gods, in the case of priests.)

  2. Talismans also allow you to get to the Crown of Command


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