Schools of Magic and the Resonance Arcane Tradition
When the Player’s Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition was released, most of the classes therein had two or three archetypes for players to consider when selecting the class. Then there are cleric and wizard. Cleric has seven core archetype choices, and wizard has eight. People – myself included – bemoaned this seeming lack of parity, but in a way that was more good-natured than actual complaining. After all, it’s an embarrassment of riches, for the most part. However, some of those riches now look like cursed pirate gold. You might not turn into a skeleton, but it does put the wizard into an awkward position. This is part of why I have been taking my time on addressing wizard in Zodiac/Far Realm series. No longer. The bill has come due, so let’s pay it off with looking at the schools of magic and the Resonance Arcane Tradition.
Previous Discussions: The Zodiac and the Celestial Sorcerer | Aberrations and the Circle of the Zodiac Druids | Dendar the Night Serpent and the Path of Nightmares Barbarians | Living Stars, Blazozoids, and Zodiac Patron Warlocks | Singing Stars, Erinyes, and the Bardic College of Kindly Song| Bitheism, Clerics, and the Service Domain | Superstition and the Starscarred Fighter | Warrior Orders and the Way of the Jade Serpent | Sacrificial Power and the Oath of Binding | Hunting Monsters, Fancy Tools, and the Astral Covenant Ranger | Resource Management and the Starbroker Rogue
The Third Heat…err Ninth School
I have a harder time than is strictly necessary with the schools of magic in D&D. It’s not that I forget any of the schools. Instead, video games warped my fragile little mind and now I always think there is a ninth school – alteration. This is all thanks to EverQuest. In EverQuest, are only five schools of magic – abjuration, alteration, conjuration, divination, and evocation. This is juxtaposed against the traditional eight schools of D&D we all know and love – abjuration, conjuration, divination, enchantment, evocation, illusion, necromancy, and transmutation. Quite the surprising turn of events, since EverQuest is essentially a D&D video game.
You would be forgiven in thinking fewer schools means a less complex magic system. However, let’s remember when EverQuest came out – 1999. This is prior to the release of 3rd edition, meaning most of the EverQuest was doing is the result of the AD&D 2e boom of the early/mid 90’s. There’s no such thing as meta-magic or concept of reining in the bloat that was experienced by a near end-of-life edition. It’s not as if 3.x got rid of this entirely or anything, but it was a meaningful functional improvements. You still have cure spells that are just better versions of each other at different levels. Boy, does EverQuest rely on this. Just about every spell you get after the third or fourth spell tier is just a better or variant version of an existing spell. There are still unique spells – shout out to boon of the garou – but they are the exception rather than the rule.
The schools aren’t a 1:1 translation between the games, either. Abjuration is essentially the same as in D&D – it’s about defensive buffs – but with some specific rules around it. Abjuration covers hit points, armor class, resistances, and the removal of magical effects and resistances. Stat boosts, armor class and hit point debuffs, or things like attack or movement speed are not covered in this school. It’s extremely thin on the ground, but it’s very clear what it does. Likewise, conjuration and evocation are crystal clear. Is something summoned? Conjuration it is. The only oddity is enchanters rely on conjuration to mesmerize enemies. The theme is dancing lights keeping the creature spellbound. It’s not off-theme, but it’s not necessarily readily evident. Evocation is about blowing stuff up. That’s it. Does it deal damage without a healing component? Evocation.
Alteration and divination are considerably less cut and dry. Divination covers anything that is information gathering or information obscuring. Oh, and it also classifies the enchanter stuns – color spray inspired spells – as divination spells. In this case, I guess it’s attempting to communicate that it’s providing information-overload to your brain? I am not entirely sure. Divination also covers invisibility, see invisibility, true north, identify, infravision, every single illusion spell, and spells that enhance your Charisma.
Alteration is any spell that changes a physical state…with a lot of weird one-offs. Under this umbrella, it makes sense healing – including life drain – is in this school. It alters your body, after all. Likewise, resurrection spells are alteration spells. Stat buffs are all alteration – minus Charisma. Attack and movement speed spells are alteration. Resource regeneration is alteration. Also…charms. Why are charms alteration? I guess because it alters your mind. Get it? Yeah, I don’t really know. I guess I could understand it, but I think divination fits it better given the way the school is used. Aggro resets, fears, and soothing effects are all alteration…but not effects that drain mana – that’s conjuration. Slows, snares, roots, and most other soft control is from the alteration school.
Like D&D, EverQuest allows you to specialize into specific schools of magic. Unlike D&D, you can still achieve a small degree of specialization in the other four schools. Specializing is only a quality of life choice rather than an opportunity-cost choice. However, the benefit of specialization in EverQuest is much less meaningful than something like making your spells harder to save against. Mana cost reduction is cool, but it’s only so impactful in a system like EverQuest. In the past, D&D has gone hard the other direction. A great example of this is the Al-Qadim setting.
Al-Qadim is a setting that leans heavily on spell schools and energy types. Elementalists specialize in a specific type of energy, one that also doubles as a school modifier. The classical elements of earth, water, fire, and air are present, but redefined as sand, sea, flame, and wind. Specializing in one precludes specialization in the others, as you might expect. Sorcerers, on the other hand, specialize in two of these elements. I don’t really want to spend time discussing the weirdness of sha’ir, but you can find such a discussion here. Foreign wizards can use all of the elements – and geomancers, but they are cheaters. Foreign wizards – ajami – are looked upon as weirdos, so there’s that.
This is to say nothing of what goes on in the Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Planescape, and Red Steel settings concerning magic. Dark Sun has that whole defiling and preserving stuff going on. Dragonlance has wizards as arcane clerics of a specific trio of gods – limiting their access and power based on allegiance. Planescape swaps around what spells – and what schools do what – at the drop of a hat. Red Steel turns magic into cocaine. In short, schools are handy and reasonable things, except when they get in the way and then we chuck them out the window. It’s a good microcosm of the DMing experience, now that I think about it.
Schools of Magic and the Resonance Arcane Tradition
I’ve been noodling on the role of wizards in the world of the Zodiac and Far Realm for quite a while. I kept imagining them in workshops, pouring over elaborate alchemical laboratories while they try and understand the fabric of reality. They try and separate reality into discrete parts and then associate those parts with their known schools of magic. These wizards believe reality and magic are made of the same components, and should have the same classifications. The link, according to these wizards, is the very nature of the constellations – seeming links between the physical, magical, and reality-warping Far Realm. Specifically, wizards believe this link exists most strongly in Zaguben the Wandering Scholar.
Zaguben left behind writings in the world that are prized by scholars, but are considered highly dangerous. The texts at first seem to be a series of meaningless symbols, drawings, and scattered words.The more the text is studied, the more the texts reveal themselves to the researcher. These revelations are rarely present, as Zaguben is among the first to have encountered the Far Realm, and has walked there time and again – often at great detriment to himself. Despite these risks, a few brave wizards managed to decipher key texts, and established the Resonance Arcane Tradition.
Resonance Arcane Tradition centers around the creation of crystals that resonate with specific schools of magic. These crystals echo out additional magic whenever the wizard casts a spell of the associated school. Focusing on combining the alchemical and magical arts, the wizards of this tradition have also learned to distill spells to their base components. As a result, these wizards create oils and unguents to aid themselves and their allies.
Members of this tradition are viewed by others with trepidation. These wizards have a habit of going mad, becoming dangers to themselves or others. Despite this, others recognize the value of these wizards. Without them, the world itself would be a much more dangerous place, and less would be known about it. As such, many keep a close watch on wizards of this tradition.
Resonance Arcane Tradition Features
|2nd||Crystalline Creations, Student of Alchemy|
When you choose this tradition at 2nd level, you learn to create crystals that resonate with specific schools of magic. These crystals provide additional effects when used with spells, and are consumed at that time.
Crystal Types. You learn two crystal types of your choice, which are detailed under “Crystal Types” below. Many crystals enhance spells in some way. You can use only one crystal per spell. You learn one additional crystal type at 6th, 10th, and 14th level. Each time you learn a new crystal type, you can also replace one crystal type you know with a different one. You may grow and maintain up to four crystals at a time, and each crystal grants you a crystal die. When you create a crystal, you select it’s crystal type.
Crystal Die. Your crystal die are 1d8s. A crystal die is expended when you use expend a crystal. As long as you have access to alchemical supplies, you can create up to four crystals and regain your expended crystal die when you finish a long or short rest. You may grow and maintain an additional crystal at 6th level and 14th level.
Saving Throws. Some of your crystals require your target to make a saving throw to resist the crystal’s effects. The saving throw DC is the same as your wizard spell DC.
Student of Alchemy
At 2nd level, you gain proficiency in alchemist’s supplies. Further, your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses this proficiency.
Beginning at 6th level, after regaining spells as part of a long rest you may use an abjuration spell that targets only one creature as an oil rather than a spell slot. When you do so, choose an abjuration spell you have prepared and expend a spell slot of the spell’s level or higher. This creates the spell as an oil that can be applied to a creature as a bonus action. This oil becomes useless after 24 hours, or is rendered inert by making another oil. This oil can only be applied by you, though you may apply it to another, adjacent creature. If the spell requires concentration, the creature who has the oil applied to them must maintain the effect.
Upon reaching 10th level, you may also create oils for necromancy or transmutation spells. You may only create oils for necromancy or transmutation spells that target a single creature. As a bonus action, you may apply this oil to a melee weapon or piece of ammunition. The next time the weapon hits a target, the spell is also cast. This oil only lasts 1 minute after being applied. If the spell requires concentration, the creature hits with the oiled weapon must maintain the effect.
At 10th level, your crystals now grow to a large size. Your crystal dice are now 1d10 instead of 1d8.
Starting at 14th level, your search for meaning and connections between magic, reality, and the Far Realm has caused you to go a little mad. You have advantage against becoming charmed or frightened, and resistance to psychic damage.
Additionally, whenever you fail a saving throw against an enchantment, illusion, or non-damaging transmutation spell, you may instead suffer from the effects of a confusion spell for the duration of the original spell effect. Once you have done so, you may not do so again until you complete a long rest.
Crystal types are presented in alphabetical order.
Abjuration Crystal. Whenever you cast an abjuration spell, you may expend an abjuration crystal to grant a target a magical shield they can consume as a reaction to getting hit by an attack or making a saving throw. As a reaction to getting hit by an attack, the target may consume the shield to raise their AC by the result of your crystal die until the end of your next turn. As a reaction to making a saving throw, the target may consume the shield to add the result of your crystal die to the result of their saving throw. The crystal die may be rolled after the saving throw is rolled, but before the outcome is determined. If not used, the shield expires at the end of your next turn. If the shield expires instead of being consumed, the target gains temporary hit points equal to double the result of your crystal die. If you cast an abjuration spell of fifth level or higher, you may target a second ally when you expend this crystal.
(Updated 2018-05-11 11:41 GMT: Reworked action economy a bit, and streamlined how it worked)
Conjuration Crystal. Whenever you cast a conjuration spell, you may expend a conjuration crystal to allow you or an ally you can see to teleport a number of feet equal to five times the result of your crystal die. Additionally, if the conjuration spell deals damage, you add the result of your crystal die to one instance of damage of the spell. If you cast a conjuration spell of fifth level or higher, you may target a second ally when you expend this crystal.
Divination Crystal. Whenever you cast a divination spell, you may expend a divination crystal to grant an ally you can see your crystal die. This die can be spent whenever the ally makes an attack roll or ability check. The crystal die can be rolled after the attack roll or ability check is made, but before the result is determined. If you cast a divination spell of fifth level or higher, you may target a second ally when you expend this crystal.
Enchantment Crystal. Whenever you cast an enchantment spell, you may expend an enchantment crystal to attempt to charm or frighten a creature you can see – your choice. The creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or suffer the effect either until the end of your next round or for as long as you are concentration on the spell – if the spell is a concentration spell. The creature has a penalty on the saving throw against this charm or fear equal to the result of your crystal die. If you cast an enchantment spell of fifth level or higher, you may target a second creature when you expend this crystal. When you make a choice between charming or frightening, it applies to all creatures you are targeting and is not selected individually.
Evocation Crystal. Whenever you cast an evocation spell, you may expend an evocation crystal to either have advantage on the attack roll, or to cause a creature within the area of the spell’s effect to succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or suffer disadvantage on the spell’s saving throw. Additionally, you increase one instance of damage of the spell by the result of your crystal die. If you cast an evocation spell of fifth level or higher, you may target a second creature when you expend this crystal.
Illusion Crystal. Whenever you cast an illusion spell, you may expend an illusion crystal to have the spell last for one minute instead of needing to maintain concentration on it. If the spell is not a concentration spell, you may expend an illusion crystal to create illusory difficult terrain in a 30-foot radius around you. This terrain appears hazardous for those who witness it. When you do so, you may choose any number of creatures you can see to ignore the illusion. Creatures must make a Wisdom saving throw when they start their turn in the area, or enter the area for the first time on their turn. Creatures who fail the saving throw suffer psychic damage equal to the result of your crystal die, and see the area as difficult terrain. Creatures who succeed suffer half damage, and may ignore the illusion. The illusory difficult terrain disappears at the end of your next turn.
(Edited 2018-05-10 17:13 GMT: Reworked this one. I wasn’t happy with the original.)
Necromancy Crystal. Whenever you cast a necromancy spell, you may expend a necromancy crystal to create a living shadow. This incorporeal shadow appears within five feet of you and you may spend your reaction to have the shadow a ranged spell attack using your ranged spell attack bonus whenever you cast a necromancy spell. On a successful hit, it deals your choice of cold or necrotic damage equal to your crystal die value, and you gain half of the damage dealt in temporary hit points. This shadow may not be targeted by any spells or attacks, but disappears if you are incapacitated. You may only have one shadow active at a time. If you cast a necromancy spell of fifth level or higher, you may double the damage of the shadow when you expend this crystal.
Transmutation Crystal. Whenever you cast a transmutation spell, you may expend a transmutation crystal to alter the form of an ally you can see. You may either give them the features of a banshee, giant porcupine, or wolverine. Banshee features allow the ally to roll your crystal die and add the result as thunder damage the next time they deal damage with a spell. Giant porcupine features allow the ally to roll your crystal die and add the result as piercing damage the next time they deal damage with a ranged attack. Wolverine features allow the ally to roll your crystal die and add the result as slashing damage the next time they deal damage with a melee attack. If you cast a transmutation spell of fifth level or higher, you may target a second ally when you expend this crystal. Additionally, if the conjuration spell deals damage, you add the result of your crystal die to the damage of the spell.