Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Arthedain-tradition seer

Not all spell casters are Istaris. This is a fantasy world, after all. However, creating spell casters that are not too far off the Tolkien lore is a balancing act. Even the MERP system, dedicated to Middle-Earth, delivered wizards as if Middle-Earth was a suburb of the Waterdeep. These are not action wizards, but let see how we can bring sparkles into the campaign without making the PCs maiars.


The seers is a kind of mortal spellcaster in Middle-Earth. The discipline was mainly developed under the patronage of Arthedain Kings. Since the downfall of the kingdom, the tradition has waned and waxed many times. Most people do not believe that seers have any real powers. Frankly, most seers are quite happy to be left alone.

The largest advancement for seers happened recently when King Elessar appointed Tarquillan as Royal Seer: a position that had been eliminated early during the stewardship of Gondor. Tarquillan is co-chairing the Palantir commission, as the resident expert on scrying through  Palantirs.


Human seers are recruited from all social levels from youth with keen intellect (IQ 13+) or exceptional dispositions (Oracle, Spirit Empathy). Seers’s true magical art is buried in a huge corpus of practices and superstitions. Parsing through supersitions and effective rituals constitute 80% of the professional life of seers.

Seers can only be trained by seers, and there are no real way to tell where to find one. The only widely known seer is the Royal Seer of Gondor.

Training and Traditions

This sections refers to spells that can be found in GURPS Basic Set or GURPS Magic 4e.

Seers must be trained in Research, thaumatology, and depending on the aspect of their magery, in other manual crafts. Seers are confined to the world of books and time consuming practices. Most are not particularly streetwise.  They are the closest thing to a TL4 nerd.

Seers do not have a strong written tradition. In fact, most seers regards writing down their creations as improper. It is thought that true Seers must find their spells through new inventions in order to deserve them. However, there are many books compiling seer art that can be found in Middle-Earth. Making prophecies also relies heavily on almanach, astrological treatises, glass scrying implements, astronomical equipment.

All seers are considered to have and aspected magery 0 (or more). Refer to B67 for details on aspected magery. Dark/Daylight, Dance, Song aspects are appropriate. GMs should feel free to be creative.

Making Prophecies

The prophecy is the central, and often only, ability of seers. Using their background in thaumatology, they unravel and formulate prophecies as if they were single use spell inventions. Creating spells is covers in Chapter 17 of the Basic set. Here are some guidelines on setting the level of complexity of a prophecy:

  • Simple
    • Resources : A personal library, minimal equipment, looking glass.
    • Type of prophecy: Yes/No question about the present which impacts on one or a few individuals.
  • Average
    • Resources: A large personal library, a telescope, a small shop.
    • Type of prophecies:
      • Yes/no question about the present which impacts a powerful individual, or a nation.
      • "X will do Y to Z" prophecy about an individual that will occur in the near future.
  • Complex
    • Resources : Hundreds of books, an observatory, workshops, small support staff
    • Type of prophecy: "X will do Y to Z when K" format prophecy about a powerful individual or a nation, within the coming century.
  • Amazing
    • Resources : Nation-level libraries, observatories, glass blowing foundries, collaborating staff
    • Type of prophecy: "X will do Y to Z when K if H" format prophecy about the distant future which involves nations, exceptional individual or nations that have yet to exist.

The spell automatically succeeds if invented, but can only be cast once. All rolls should be secret as a critical failure leads to a false prophecy.

Appropriate aspects for prophets are astrology, entrails, fire, number theory (mathematics). The cost of a prophecy depend on the aspect of the magery of the prophet.

The scryers

Scryers are seers which have developed the skills to see and hear through clear artifacts. Whether they may be made of crystal, gemstones, pure water, wine, etc. The aspect of scryers should tie their craft to one of many of these scrying media.

Scryers are rare and exceptional. They can produce prophecy, but will have enough literature to guide them to invent reusable spells. Scrying devices are usually hand-made. Depending on the story, a hard research check may provide them with enough background material to provide a bonus on the invention of their spells.
Scryers thus must also learn the crafts to satisfy the aspect of their magery. For example, glassblowing, winemaking, etc.

Suitable spells in the scryer tradition are the following:

  • Sense Life, Sense Foes, Sense Spirits : Binary spells that communicate to the seer whether life, danger or spirits can be found on a point of focus, or general area. A GM may want to consolidate these spells into a wildcard spell if it makes sense.
  • Far-Hearing, Far-Seeing : Acquire information on remote location or individuals using scrying as a medium.
  • Message, Communication : Communicate with faraway individual to gain/provide information.
  • seeker, trace : Locate missing/remote objects using scrying.

The mediums

The mediums have a special connection to the shadow world. They can see into it to unravel the hidden properties of objects and individuals. Suitable aspects for mediums are Day, Night, Solitaire, alcohol/substances.

The spells that mediums can discover may look like this:

  • Reveal Shadow World (see below) : See into the shadow world, and be seen as well.
  • Speak with wraiths (see below) : Converse with wraith into the shadow world using unspoken words.
  • History, Ancient History, Pre-history : Connect with the essence of material object to interrogate their past imprints.

New Spells

Reveal Shadow World

Duration: 1 min; Cost: 2, 2 to maintain Time to cast: 3  Pre-requisite(s): Magery. -- With this spell, the seer gets to see the shadow world as if it was his/her native world. He/She can see magical object in full details, and pure form wraiths.  

Speak with wraiths

Duration: 1 min; Cost: 2, 2 to maintain Time to cast: 3  Pre-requisite(s): Magery. -- With this spell, a seer can engage in a brief conversation with a wraith. Wraith are not very talkative, and get an automatic -4 to reaction. Wraiths have a short memory span, most have gone insane over time.


  1. Discovery of the day: drafting and editing took up about all my idle time on the chemo chair this morning. I love efficiency.

  2. Also, for those wondering what Araliniel is, she is a medium with an alcohol aspected magery... she has to get drunk for it to work...

  3. Good to know for Fin. He has to get her drunk first. He sort of figured that as he is a hobbit and all.