Wizards in the Vineyard
This is a Dogs in the Vineyard hack, based on dreams that burned brightly enough in my head to warrant being answered proportionately. This is not complete. But it is pretty cool.
Wizards in the Vineyard
Imagine you are a Wizard who holds the world in the palm of your cupped hands.
Imagine that world is the Mediterranean, blue, lush, warm, mildly tropical and thriving with a thousand growing civilizations upon its coast, where traders sail the shallow waters of the vast sea, among forgotten isles and reed-thick deltas. Imagine the Mediterranean of the ancient world, populated by men who might be Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Africans, and others if this were another Earth, where each claims one or more of the shining city-states along the tranquil shores. And where Inland, away from the sea, lie barbarians and raider tribes, a few isolated and degenerate kingdoms, and worse…
Imagine you, Wizard, rule one of these shining cities, alone or with a cabal of other powerful Wizards, sworn only to the mysterious Tower where live the reclusive Archmagi, whose power is such it could break the world, and who cannot themselves thus interfere in its course. It is at their will you are the protector and saviour of civilization, the very soul of your city. In their stead, by their leave, you run your city’s government, you are its justice and law-maker, you are priest, ruler, magistrate and public servant.
Imagine you and your cabal weave the spells that automate and soften life in the cities, and in holy ritual intercede with the gods on your peoples’ behalf. Imagine your spoken word is reality: that it becomes the invisible machinery upon which the cities are built, and which drive back the greedy barbarian hordes, the lurking demons gnawing at the edge of the Earth, and the wicked Mages both fled and banished Inland. Imagine this Wizardry lights the city streets at night, holds up the city’s walls and buildings, turns the wheels of the massive granaries, and otherwise supports the very infrastructure of civilization.
But your power can not control the human heart. Greed, jealously, anger, fear and hatred all flourish in mankind, even in the midst of paradise…and despite your power, you can not be everywhere at once. Mankind must be protected, even from himself, and nurtured, so you must guide, judge, and punish. Too, your spells must be recast, maintained, reinforced lest they fail and paradise sink back into barbarism as survival outweighs growth. It is not a job for the weak, the lazy, or the selfish.
The Tower wonders if you are up to the task, Wizard, or if you will join the fallen Mages who rule the chaos and struggle that lies Inland?
What do you do?
- Administer judgement and punishment.
- Keep the cities running smoothly.
- Keep the populace safe, fed, and bound as family in civilization.
- Drive back barbarians.
- Foil assasinations.
- Seek out lost people and traders in the sea.
- Bargain with gods and spirits.
- Keep your apprentice(s) on the straight-and-narrow, uncorrupt by their own power.
- Keep your neighboring city’s Wizards on the straight-and-narrow, uncorrupt.
This is Dogs in the City: instead of traveling to find trouble, the trouble finds them, because they are the center, they are the authority.
Creating Wizards (notes)
Stats are Stats. Acuity plus Will is magic, not gun-fighting. d10 fallout. Magic is a club. It forces changes to reality in accordance with the wizard’s will, and probably against the will of whomever or whatever is affected.
Traits are Traits. “I’m a Dog” is “I’m a Wizard”. Choose it as a Trait or take a relationship to the Tower.
Relationships are people, places, and the magic of the city. Got something brewing down at the wharf? Magicked fishnets that draw the catch in for returning fishermen? Deal with the light spells that keep the city streets glowing? Have a mysterious connection to some weird magical obelisk out in the Inland desert?
Belongings are robes, your staff (or rod or wand, depending on your culture…but most wizards carry staves), your Grimoire, your familiar (whether it is an animal or spirit), and alchemics (potions and magical components and such). Plus anything else you might have, including other minor magical trinkets.
You don’t have to have a familiar or a staff if you don’t want.
Describe all this stuff with the usual descriptions and dice.
For Wizards, the jar of sacred earth is Alchemics. Wizards have a broad knowledge of the magical properties of various substances, especially when combined with other substances in arcane ways. Thus the Wizard can create various potions and magical substances out of strange objects and elements at their disposal.
As an example, the Wizard can declare he has used Alchemics to create a “Flash Powder”, and now he will use it to blind his enemy’s eyes. Yep, right there in play, in the middle of the conflict he’s retroactively defined some sort of magical stuff he’s been carrying around.
Anything created by Alchemics crumbles and fades away to nothing after it is used (either after the conflict is resolved, or immediately after use) unless the Wizard takes some Fallout that lets him define a new Belonging. Then he can write it down as normal for later use. As Sluggy Freelance would say, “Nifty.”
Here’s the progression of Sin:
Someone believes something Unjust is happening; someone gets jealous and greedy, power-hungry, angry or hateful. Someone decides they’re more important than the city, than civilization, than the law, than the rules and the magic that binds everyone in the city together.
Acting out against the Injustice leads to Sin; someone doesn’t just get angry, they get angry and they’re not going to take it anymore! And they do something about it, to someone else.
Sin allows the barbarians to attack the city, for threats to bother the community. Maybe demons begin mucking with the city’s magics and things break down, maybe the gods aren’t answering prayers the way they should be (or at all!), maybe press gangs and lynch mobs are running the streets, or maybe it is real barbarians at the gates!
Over time, continued Sin weakens the bonds of civilization, of society and community, and before long it is everyone for themselves with all their perfect Justification: from the “right” of the strong to rule the weak, to the “right” of each man to completely control his own destiny, and so forth.
In all cases, it is the abandonment of civilization and society for convenience, selfishness disguised as righteousness. Even Wizards can fall prey to this, and the Tower might send your neighbors to set you straight…or banish you.
Those who fall prey to repeated Sins and create Justification create Black Magic. And when there are enough voices behind this, the leader(s) of the movement become Mages. The rebellious provincial General and his legions, the crime lord at the docks with his network of smugglers, etc.
Mages practicing their magic eventually Destroy Civilization, leading to greed, selfishness, slavery, riots, murder and other dehumanizing behaviors: it creates a void of power the Mages can step into and use to their own advantage. That’s what the Mages want.
So, who are the Mages?
They are Wizards who have said to themselves, “Hey, I’ve got all this power, why shouldn’t I use it to benefit myself?” They set themselves up as kings and gods to be served.
Sometimes they fancy themselves benevolent dictators, but the proof is there Inland: they are lords of barbarism. They are men and rule men whose concerns are motivated solely by their own weakness, and that trickles down throughout society in their wicked cities. The youngest child of Inlanders would sooner cut your throat than look at you.
Society Inland is all wickedness and greed, with no thought given to one’s neighbors, and stratified classes who wield their power over one another indiscriminately and carelessly and call it “law”.
The men of Inland tribes and kingdoms are incapable of effecting widespread change because they have all bought in to this: what power they have is theirs, and that’s as far as it goes. To do more, they must personally gain more power — they can not and do not see community, and if they do, they see it as a resource only.
Ultimately, the difference is here: where Wizards exist to serve, the Mages exist to be served. And the societies built beneath each reflect that on a gross level.
The hardest assignment the Tower ever gives young Wizards is teaching civilization to a barbarian city or kingdom, and then moving it to the sea.
Many can’t handle it, they are killed, become outright corrupted by the society, try to “do the best they can” and rule “benevolently” Inland, or they simply give up and either vanish or return to the Tower in shame.
Authority of the Cabal: Wizards are much more powerful when they work together in rituals. Whenever three or more wizards work together, they can accomplish incredible things and their magic becomes much harder to resist. Fallout is d8.
Formulaic Recitation: There’s a reason Wizards carry books of spells around with them, and that’s because a Wizard’s Grimoire is more than just a collection of spells. It is a powerful artifact of magic on its own. For reasons known only to the Wizards themselves, reading from one, especially one of their own, adds extra power to a Wizard’s words when confronting magic and magical creatures. Fallout is d6.
Ceremonial Circle: Wizards can draw circles of chalk, silver, gold and flame, of a variety of different geometries and sizes. Often these are used to summon and contain demons, or to keep things out. They are, of course, drawn and empowered by the Wizard’s staff. Fallout is d6.
Read the Stars: By reading the position of the stars and other celestial bodies in the heavens, the Wizard gains knowledge of the future. He can declare this knowledge to others and reveal their fates to them, even the course of nations…though it isn’t always foolproof. Fallout is d4.
Channel the Staff: The Wizard’s staff is the symbol of his authority, both physical and arcane. By gripping his staff and channeling magical energies through it, causing it to glow and emit other obviously supernatural effects, the Wizard can increase the strength of his own magic. Fallout is d8.
Invoke the Tower: The Tower is the source of all Wizardry in the world. Neither other Wizards nor even Mages can ignore the Wizard who invokes the authority of the Archmagi of the Tower. Fallout is d4.
all text copyright (c)2006 Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan