... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sage Variant (Ancestral Sage)

This is a half-baked crazy idea based on reading about the Lord of the Rings movie that John Boorman (director of Excalibur, Altered States, Emerald Forest, and Zardoz) wanted to make. I get a kick out of movie adaptation ideas from directors with really weird personal visions, like Jodorowsky's Dune, which would have starred Salvidor Dali as the Emperor. John Boorman's idea of Gandalf figuring out how to get into Moria by throwing Gimli into a pit and beating him to semi-consciousness so that Gimli could call upon the ancestral memory of the dwarves thus intrigues me, even if it's pretty definitely not in the spirit of Tolkien.

So it's no surprise that I thought of combining that idea with the Sage class I posted a couple days ago. It's an Ancestral Memory Sage, able to recall techniques from their ancestors. Instead of the universal ability to read magic scrolls, the Ancestral Sage can remember ANY bit of knowledge from their ancestors (the tribe as a whole, not a specific person.) Ancestral Sages don't build expensive libraries on topics, but instead use some risky process of inducing a trance state, like the ferocious beating of Gimli, to retrieve one fact (treated like a "sage scroll" in the previous article.)

Trance procedures include ritual beating, drugs, a sweat lodge, or ritual dance and take a minimum of 1 turn. The basic risk of any trance procedure is unconsciousness; trance success increases for every turn spent on the attempt, but the risk increases. Basically, use the subduing rules for dragons:
  • roll one or more d6s every turn;
  • if any of the dice rolled is less than the HD-based modifier, the Ancestral Sage has retrieved that memory;
  • the total of the dice is taken as (temporary) subduing damage; if cumulative subduing damage equals or exceeds hit points, the Ancestral Sage falls unconscious and must be wakened after 1 turn.
Each trance technique would have a different way of increasing the number of d6s rolled per turn. For example, roll 1d6 for every person beating on you, or 1d6 for a 10gp drug, +1d6 per x10gp of cost.

Just like ordinary Sages, Ancestral Sages get a one-time bonus equal to their HD on the one specific subtopic they went into a trance to retrieve. Unlike ordinary Sages, they don't get the bonus any other way. Ancestral Sages would make a good class for a shaman.


  1. Monte Cook created a similar class for his Arcana Unearthed game, called the Akashik, who could tap into ancestral memory to gain knowledge, skills, and abilities. I thought it was quite a neat idea, and I've always liked the idea of a class that could access ancestral memory - it could be a very versatile class.

  2. It's funny... I bought Arcana Unearthed, but didn't really read it, because the print is far too small and my eyes are old and feeble. I did, however, read Pandemonium, a tabloid news RPG, which had a Past Life ability that gave temporary access to skills.