Familiar rules [LotFP, Archive]

Find Familiar is not a spell per se. Rather, “researching the spell” represents the Mage gathering the lore and equipment required to bind an animal or spirit to their service. Nor is it cast, crudely, as a lure to the waiting fish of the void (for there are far too many sharks, and worse, in those Plasmic waters), but taken on as a spiritual journey and investment. Though most Magi would be loath to admit it, Familiars also provide companionship upon their lonely road to power; more importantly, they provide subservient and reliable companionship, an extension of themselves. Even Clerics will sometimes accept the aid of a friendly or at least allied servant of their Gods. Remember, though –  the price of service may differ in detail, but it is equally terrifying for the servants of Angels as of Demons..

As bound spirits, Familiars cannot be Dispelled, though they can be Turned and in some cases Banished. They are hedged out by appropriate warding magics.

Natural Familiars
Natural creatures are the easiest to bind, and the most common associates of Magi of all waters. They also excite less comment among the uncultured, should the Mage still be forced to hide their powers from the jealous and frightened. A Natural Familiar is created by binding a combination of the Mage’s own Plasmic energy and other latent power to the beast, and is always a draining and deeply unpleasant process for the Mage. Treat the entire process as Researching a 1st-level spell, with the final sacrifices and costs coming only after the ritual is complete. The wizard will be completely exhausted and require a full day of rest when the ritual is completed.
Any sacrifices made to create a Natural Familiar are permanent. Even after its death, barring exceptionally powerful healing magics or extensive and deeply unsavory spell research, the wizard’s gifts are not returned.

The animal gains the following benefits
• 1 HP for each permanent HP the Mage invests in it during the soul-binding rituals. Its natural life is also extended by 1 year for each HP so invested; the DM may also allow the caster to pledge some of his own life force (years of life, HP, stat points, etc.) to the Familiar at an appropriate ration for more HP/Life.
• It may use the Mage’s saving throws whenever applicable. Further, when in the Mage’s presence, any Magic Missiles or similar spells targeted at the familiar will normally strike the Mage instead.
• It may speak freely with the Mage in its own tongue, and be understood. If given a point in Languages, it may also converse in one Human language with others, and possibly even learn other languages depending on its Intelligence. A familiar with Intelligence 14 or more is literate, though writing may be somewhat difficult. All animals may furthermore speak with any others of their kind (cats with wildcats or lions, ferrets with martens and weasels, etc), but do not convey this ability to their masters without further research.
• Most other animals will treat with the Familiar deferently, or at least with appropriate condescension. It gains a permanent 1-point bonus on Reaction rolls from natural animals.
• At the DM’s option, the Magos may make a further appropriate sacrifice of Life Force, magic items, bound Plasms (spell slots) or other resources to grant the Familiar additional skills and abilities. For example, the Wizard with Spider Climb might sacrifice a spell slot to give his familiar the ability to walk on walls and ceilings.

The Mage benefits thusly:
• Speak with, and understand, his Familiar.
• The information and additional insight provided by their presence subtracts 10% from the cost of any magical research and item creation; the Familiar also acts as a “gopher” during the process, retrieving needed tools or bearing messages to those outside the laboratories as desired.
• A bonus point in a single appropriate skill possessed by his Familiar.

Finally, both the wizard and his familiar are marked out from others by their association with each other.
• During the Familiar’s creation, the player must choose one or more features that the Magus and Familiar share. This could include anything from birthmarks and sigils, to similar physical and behavioral features. Each time the caster and Familiar level up, add an additional characteristic to this list.
• They will have an identical plasmic aura to anyone using the Second Sight (Detect Magic, True Seeing, and similar spells or magic items).
• At higher levels, the Mage may perform additional research and rituals to give or share further power with their familiar. Common abilities bestowed include limited shape-shifting, seeing through the Familiar’s eyes at-will, use as a “plasmic battery”, greater facility in speech and new skills, or even human form and spellcasting ability. The process is half as expensive and time-consuming if the Mage knows a related spell (Speak Unto Beasts, for example, would facilitate learning the Speech of All Cats from one’s Familiar.)
• If using the DCC Corruption/Taint rules, or the Maleficar and similar classes, both the Mage and the Familiar may be marked more explicitly in any case where the Familiar is present and participating in the Mage’s spellcasting.

Developed more fully later; I’m poking at the stuff in England Upturn’d as I have time, but so far none of my players wants a Homunculus.

Other Supernatural Familiars
Imps, Gremlins, some lesser Undead, and other Plasmic beasties may desire to form pacts with the Magos; not all will become Familiars, however.  Treat normal pacted entities as a Retainer or Henchman for loyalty purposes, though they almost always require remunerations more.. esoteric than mere gold and specie. Likewise, their housing and feeding requirements are more exotic than most employees. Payments are usually given on Samhain or All Soul’s Eve and Walpurgisnacht as part of a larger ceremony.
Becoming a Familiar requires forging a direct link between the souls of the Plasmic entity and the Wizard. In addition to the sould-binding rituals, the DM and player should negotiate a contract for the creature’s service and enumerate its powers. Its loyalty is affected as a Henchman or other “demi-PC” character accompanying the party. Most will (again) have goals other than a simple share in the treasure the party collects – esoteric materials, information, or seemingly-insignificant acts at requested times. Failing to meet these requests will enrage and potentially even free the Familiar, but the party as a whole is under no more obligation to meet them than they would be any other Henchman’s demands.
In general, a Supernatural familiar will be in a more adversarial relationship with the wizard and his party, but also much more powerful than a plasmically-enhanced natural beast. Dismissing a contract without prejudice will usually return the life force the Mage invested, but good luck getting it back if you broke it. Familiars themselves cannot break the word of a contract but will, of course, twist it depending on their personal goals and general cussedness.

Common points of contracts include:
• Bonuses to Summoning spells and control rolls (especially in the service of the Familiar’s interests)
• Use of the Familiar’s powers at a negotiated price, or amplification of its powers through the sacrifice of spell levels/Stat points by the Magos. Familiars almost never allow themselves to be “used” freely, but will rarely pass up the chance for a little more profit..
• Many supernatural familiars will have knowledge of tongues other than the Magos’. They may wish to negotiate for its skill; woe betide the wizard who blindly trusts a servant of the Father of Lies, however.
• Access to a bonus spell, usually limited shapeshifting or illusion magics.
• Listed punishments for violating the minor terms of the agreement, usually taken as oaths. These will have >very< visible effects.

A Sample Mage, using my generator from earlier (LotFP, NPCs, Spoilers)

Spoilers for my players under the jump. Plz to go away, thank you.


So, this is one of the mages I made for last week’s session, using that generator from the last post plus some of the other stuff I’m working on..

Tables for Creating Low-Level Wizards & Other Fools who Would Tamper With the Skeins of Fate (LotFP/D&D).

Harry Clarke - The Snow Queen

Harry Clarke – The Snow Queen

In addition to my generators on Last Gasp (Wizardly Schools and First level Spells for LotFP wizards), I’ve been working on a full NPC speed-generator for mages, to go with a more general NPC supplement I’m writing. I used it last week for generating a couple towns and their conflicting magical populations. I’m retaining copyright on this one, mostly because I’m hoping to publish – but with a creative-commons attribution non-commercial license if ya want to use it.

Here’s the current draft document:
So, if you don’t know if this town is the kind of place that attracts Reality Warpers, roll on the first table. If you already know who’s there, or you’re just generating an NPC, skip the first table. If you don’t know their level, roll 1d6 at the end, adding mentor/school modifiers

Is there a wizard?
  (Roll 1d8, +2 if in a thaumocracy, +1 if inside a city (5000+ citizens). Note that these modifiers are cumulative. In a large city, roll once  for each major ward or district)

  1. No
  2. No
  3. Hedge-mage/shaman/goodwife of power
  4. Hedge-mage &c.
  5. A Magic-user
  6. A Magic-user
  7. A Wizard (see “Seclusium of Orphone” and “Isle of the Unknown” for more information on the distinction between Wizards and Magic-users. Loosely, “Magic-users” use magic, “Wizards” ARE magic)
  8. Several of them (1d3 to 1d6, at your discretion)

Are they part of a cabal?

  1. Yes. Several of them. Someone’s going to be in trouble soon… (roll twice on the table, taking both results. Keep rolling if you keep getting ones..)
  2. Yes, and the cabal has powerful rivals; they’re in an active turf war
  3. A secular secret society, not limited to Magi
  4. Yes, and it’s (roll 1d6): 1-3 – riven by internal conflict, 4-6 – stable – for now. Magi being what they are, of course, they’re still jockeying quietly for advantage.
  5. Yes, and this mage is in charge (+1 level, may have missions for or claims upon a PC mage)
  6. No, but they have a rival with whom they are as friendly as wizards get.
  7. No, and they have a rival who’s a powerful enemy
  8. No, and they’ve pissed off a cabal or society
  9. No, and they’re at war with another independent
  10. No, and they were cast out of one
  11. No, and they’re in a position of public power (secular or religious)
  12. No, and they’re hiding from one (other than the Church)

How did they learn their skills?

(Roll 1d10 for Magi in rural or heavily chaos-tainted areas, roll 1d20 for cities or larger, add +1 if there’s a major thaumocracy or city in the area. Roll 1d6+2 for Wizards.)

  1. Raised in a local tradition (themed spell list, little ambition, but unlikely to be set afire. Roll 1d6 – on a 1-4, ignore the “why aren’t they on fire” table, and treat as “locals approve” )
  2. Local Tradition (as 1, above)
  3. They’re self-taught (all spells rolled randomly, seeks magical information and knowledge more aggressively, lower a level)
  4. Self-taught, (As 3, above. If a wizard, he was created by an Item of Power)
  5. Pacts and Infernal contracts (Must bargain a thing of supernatural value to learn further spells. Constantly looking for ways to pay that don’t hurt themselves.)
  6. Feyblooded (no iron in their home, despises gulls, gets a +2 on all rolls to learn spells, but can’t roll again. Ever.)
  7. Possessed (Uses demonic abilities, cannot learn new spells. Turning has a chance of removing the demon)
  8. Plasmically conceived (Learns spells instinctively; cut research times in half, but gains no benefit from a library.)
  9. They had a mentor (roll on the Mentor table, gains some free magical nexus or trinket as a gift)
  10. As 9, above
  11. They killed their mentor (roll on mentor table, gains 1d3 nexii/trinkets, add a level)
  12. Their mentor was killed by a rival (gains an enemy)
  13. They escaped their mentor (may be hunted – roll on Relationship table)
  14. They mentor another wizard (+2 levels. Roll another wizard, skipping this table, of level 1d3; roll for the student on “mentor” and “mentor relationship” tables)
  15. As 14, above
  16. Poached from their mentor by another wizard or school
  17. Tutored in a school or cabal, and they were expelled
  18. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  19. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  20. School/Cabal, graduate
  21. School/Cabal, graduate
  22. Yes, and they’re in charge (+1d3 levels)

Mentor sub-table

  1. Mentor was kind, but incompetent (-1 level, minor magical trinket or tool)
  2. Mentor was kind and competent (+1 level, minor trinket/tool)
  3. Mentor grew bored and cast them out (-1 level)
  4. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but competent (+1 level, gain a spell of cursing)
  5. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but incompetent (-1 level)
  6. Still under tutelage (-1 level)
  7. Actively plotting to kill or usurp mentor. May attempt to enlist PC aid.
  8. Tried to kill, but failed (Under a curse, seeking to lift)

Relationship with mentor?

  1. Respect, genuine
  2. Respect, grudging
  3. Raw hatred
  4. Subtle hatred
  5. Resentment
  6. Fear (even if he’s dead. ESPECIALLY if he’s dead)
  7. Lovers, or similar physical/metaphysical desires. (Roll again on the table to find the mentor’s opinion on the matter..)
  8. Fondness
  9. Condescension
  10. Apathy
  11. Curiosity (“where are they?”, “are there secrets they didn’t teach me?”, etc.)
  12. Mentor or student is unwillingly enspelled (Roll 1d6: 1-4 – student, 5-6, mentor)

Why isn’t the mage on fire?

(In a Thaumocracy, roll 1d12 – this is how they’re maintaining their own power against their rivals.)

  1. Political favors/blackmail (to include providing black magic services, enchantments, or implicating the “patron” in their own crimes)
  2. Stealth and concealment of powers
  3. Vulgar displays of power (raw fear. This wizard probably isn’t long for the Mortal Coil)
  4. Subtle displays of power (targeted curses, illusionary omens, &c)
  5. Has ensorcelled locals (strategic charm spells, keeps them under threat of a death-curse, etc)
  6. Has ensorcelled major official or patron
  7. Wizard is laying low, hiding from a warrant, rival, or lynch mob in a nearby place
  8. Kills all inquisitors and challengers, subtly
  9. Kills inquisitors and challengers, extremely unsubtly
  10. Powerful magical defenses (Sanctum, magical traps, summoned creatures, extradimensional bolthole, etc.)
  11. Powerful mundane defenses (Bodyguards, army, traps, fortified home)
  12. Political power (Wizard uses an official position as cover, or is shielded by a powerful patron)
  13. Owns or provides an indispensable service (widespread blackmail, providing protection against a greater threat than himself)
  14. Stealth and concealment of powers
  15. Locals know there’s a wizard, and they’re trying to find him (Adventure hook!)
  16. Locals don’t care, government cares (this can change rather abruptly depending on the wizard’s behavior or omens, plagues &c.)
  17. Locals disapprove, government doesn’t give a damn  – and is suppressing witch-hunts (Locals may attempt to hire PCs to assassinate)
  18. Local citizens are down with witchcraft, government does not approve (Locals will be actively obstructive)
  19. Citizens and government approve of witchcraft (Possibly on the way to a thaumocracy?)
  20. Lies (roll again on this table)

Off-line for a couple days (also, Vance, and Wizards vs. Magic-users)

Heading out of town for a few days.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading me some Jack Vance – it’s amazing how many things, subtle things, that D&D jacked from him.

You hear “Vancian Magic” way too often in this hobby from people who don’t understand what it means. Yes, the disposable spells and imprisoning/memorizing them is Vance to the core.
It also implies a bunch of other shit. Research, experimentation, Lost Spells in the Dark and Weird places of the world, barely-controlled Tech and Nanotech. One of the reasons I’ve always had a problem with the 3x + (and even 2e to an extent) is that they simultaneously make research less-attractive/non-existent, and make magic too mundane.

See, a “Wizard” is different than a “Magic-User”. Magic-users, what the common folk call “wizard”, simply have magic. I’ve used several in the past that were 0-level NPCs and/or other classes, but had access to a magical tool, even a toy, or some internal mutation that gave them power.
A Magic-user is a deceptive bastard who uses fear and magic to keep himself off the pyre and serve his needs. Magic-users wield nothing more than a tool; they are laborers, not craftsmen, of Magic – and by 4e, they are all that remains.

(Reginald Balfour) This guy? Candles of Hypnosis and glasses that let him read any code. Boom - "Wizard".

(Reginald Balfour)
This guy? Candles of Hypnosis and glasses that let him read any code. Boom – “Wizard”.

Wizards and Magi, though? They almost understand magic, even are magic to some degree. A Wizard hunts power, knowledge, tools. He hoards as the Dragon, jealous of power, laboring to keep it hard by and thieve it from the less-worthy. A true Wizard does not have equals, but enemies, masters, inferiors, puppets; those with a hold on his soul or his power, and those who depend upon them. Wizards deceive, yes, but also play with Magic in a way a simple “user” never will.
Wizards study, and often die for, their Art – for a Wizard is an Artist, a Craftsman, a maker of Wonder.

The longer or more tightly-regulated the spell description (with limited exceptions), the closer you move to nothing but Magic-“Users”. When Grease stops conjuring a layer of bacon fat in an area and starts becoming “You can but make someone slip, or disarm them”, a Wizard isn’t the only one who loses out.
The entire game feels the hurt, for creativity and “breaking the rules” with magic are the very substance of the fairy tales and sagas we draw from.
More importantly, these acts should be part of the stories we write on our own every time we hit the table. Our tales are of finding wealth and creeping under the weight of dread, exultation and mourning, and above all being clever gits who do what we shouldn’t with every tool we have, because that’s the way Humanity works. It’s what we’ve done ever since we rejected the Garden, and it’s our fucking inheritance right alongside the weight of Adam’s Curse.
The Game shouldn’t be an endless walk down a barren corridor, whose seamless and indestructible walls lead into an unbranching infinity forever interrupted with doors, should not consist of hunting for the one and only key on our collective belt that will fit this lock.

Branch the corridor, tear down the walls. Give your players toys, not just tools; marvel at what they make of broad, Weird powers instead of simple rayguns and a really big sack they fill with FPS-style first-aid kits.


(From John William Waterhouse)
When’s the last time one of your PCs had to do this to use a magic item?

Some Generators I wrote (LotFP, Magic-users)

The kindly folks over at Last Gasp Grimoire have created a random generator maker (you don’t know how hard it was not to type “generated a generator for generating generators”..), and I have availed myself of same.

Click the following 2 links to generate:
A name for your (presumedly foul) Wizardly organization*
The Spells which they teach to initiates
(or, “what spells your first-level Mage doesn’t have to seize from others”).+
EDIT: These links break WordPress (one contains over 1000 entries..). Go to the 7th order page and look for “wizardly schools” under “names” and “Random 1st-level Spell Generator (LotFP)” under “Spells”

*”–” means “nothing”, and (and?) is an optional element. Skip it when writing down the name if it makes sense.

+Wizards may choose one spell in addition to those generated: if a spell is doubled in the generator, they may either memorize it without access to spellbooks, or select an additional spell. It’s weighted to always provide at least one each of an attack and non-combat spell, although my definitions of either might be.. debatable. It uses spells from the Spell Contest booklet**, Gingerbread Princess, Better than Any Man**, and God that Crawls. If you don’t have one of the above, make something up.

** These two are PWYW/Free, so you have no excuse :b

Have fun, and poke around – there’s a lot of entertaining stuff in there already.

For the Archive: Lehana Mzeruzeru (NPC, Magic Item, Wizard)

Spent last night out on the town with my folks for a surprise birthday dinner, so it delayed my writing a bit. But then an image and a poem crisscrossed in my head..

Tiger cape

There was a young lady from Nyger
who smiled as she rode on a Tyger.
They returned from the ride
with the Lady inside
and the smile on the face of the Tyger.

Over a century ago, the Wizard now known as Lehana wandered out of the jungles and into what passed for civilization. She meanders freely through the countryside, displaying an almost insatiable curiosity for matters grand, mean, strange and mundane. She rarely speaks, and that only (usually) to decline some offering or gesture of hospitality. The villagers living in the areas she visits have nicknamed her “the contrary Albino”, whilst informing her that it was the title of a local deity. To this, as to most things in the spheres of Men, she seems indifferent. Lehana moves as she will; doors and guard animals obey her command, and no warrior remaining alive will challenge her if she gestures for entry.

Most people assume she maintains a holdfast somewhere in the local barrows or in the Jungle, and she disappears for days or weeks at a time, often with some item she has taken on her expeditions. No-one has tracked her long enough to determine her Sanctum’s location, and the few who have sworn to find it never return.

She wears a gown, clearly of Western manufacture, and a cloak made from the skins of dozens of animals – mostly predators. Tribal Elders say the type and number of skins in her cloak have changed drastically over the years. Neither the cloak nor her voluminous dress seem to cause her distress despite the crushing heat. Her only other possessions seem to be a small book and occasionally small metal hand tools; she has never been seen with a weapon.

Stats (LotFP)
5 HD, attacks as 0-level Human, saves as 5th-level Magic-user.
Attributes: Cha 4 (to Men and all other Things), 16 (to Beasts); Int 17, Wis 14, all others average.
Skills: Occultism 2, Survival 5.
Languages: Ki-Swahili (poor), Latin. Has not responded to any other.
Powers: Command of the Cloak of Manifold Beasts, slowed or arrested aging, heightened endurance of hunger, thirst, heat, and lack of sleep.
Spells: Detect Magic, Identify, Item, Be Impressive, Charm Animal: Speak with Animals, Forget, Invisibility, Knock, Locate Object: Speak with Dead, Detect Illusion, Dispel Magic.
Equipment: Spellbook, 2 sacks of various small delicacies and gold hidden within the Cloak and under the influence of an Item spell, the Cloak, and the Ring of Displacement. May be carrying small gardening tools or magnifying and surveying devices. Occasionally bears a scroll inscribed with divinational spells.
She also possesses a Labratory and Library in her hidden home, which is worth approximately 6,000 SP; much of this “library” is in fact a Cabinet of Wonders, with each item serving to trigger the Wizard’s mind to travel some Aetheric path even as her body traveled to discover it. Her home is well-hidden in the nearby jungles, and a number of fanatically loyal animal servants tend it. They will attempt to lead interlopers astray or intimidate them, only attacking if the sanctum seems in imminent danger of violation.

The Cloak of Manifold Beasts
This strange device is a riot of clashing furs, scales, and taxidermy. Each patch of hide is an animal who has sworn service to the owner and been absorbed into an unknown Limbo. Beasts “stored” may thereafter be summoned, with the corresponding pelt disappearing from its weave; it will be under the absolute control of the user until the next moonrise. While the user may call forth any number of beasts, however, only one can be controlled by it at any given time. Any further animals called forth must make an immediate Reaction roll, and may well attack the caster or flee.
The Cloak may bind one beast each Lunar month. Each time a Beast is bound, however, its inherent wild essence seeks a new home. The closest human being other than the wielder when the Cloak absorbs an animal is affected by a Howl of the Moon spell; the duration is based on the HD of the creature absorbed, with each HD counting as a caster level. The duration bonus for casting on the Full Moon applies. Any animal who offers service of any kind, even unwittingly, to the bearer can come under the sway of the cloak – though an unwilling subject may save vs Spells to resist absorption, and will likely be ill-disposed to the cloak’s owner in any case thereafter. Further, any given beast can be bound only once by the Cloak; once freed it may never rejoin it.
Lehana has been rather industrious over the last century. The Cloak currently contains at least 3 tigers and as many panthers, a crocodile, a pack of hyenas, several wolves, an assortment of smaller creatures, and one extremely distressed Indian elephant.

The Displacing Ring:
The ring is a slender hoop of intricately-carved and inlaid bone. The bearer’s discomforts and bodily cares are spread among every person within a 1-mile radius, with the caster suffering only the proportional remainder. In a densely-populated area, the bearer effectively need never eat, drink, or sleep again. Likewise, someone suffering the thousandth part of another’s exposure or lack of sleep and food is quite unlikely to realize he is parasitized.
In a rural area, however, or a small group, the effects will be much more noticeable. Finally, any wielder of Magic (both Lawful and Chaotic) can feel the ring’s tug on their essence, and the web it weaves when worn may be seen instantly under the effects of a Detect Magic spell.

Of Wizards and Magics Arcane (NPCs)

Remember how I said Seclusium got the mental wheels turning on the topic of Wizards?
Have some.

Makhali the Devoured

No mortal is certain who or even precisely what Makhali once was. The few who know aught say Makhali has bartered a deal for power; so long as no food passes its lips, it shall live forever, and remain pluripotent in the magical arts. There is an essential truth to these rumors, and the cunning and profoundly deaf Makhali had held in abeyance a spell which would eternally steal away its mouth. As is ever the case, the Daemon had the last laugh; hunger still afflicts the Wizard acutely as ever it did.
The once-human thing shambling through Makhali’s haunts looks upon all it encounters with the fever-bright eyes of a madman, from a shriveled face and wasted, yet unnaturally strong body. It communicates through signs and dreams. The animus of its hunger has permeated the sanctum, and Makhali now shares its eternal misery by holding great phantasmal feasts* for travellers, trapping and starving them while syphoning the hunger to its own ends. The wretched Wizard’s depredations have infested the surrounding woods with the Gaunt Things and other foul fae and phasms. They drive the weary to its waiting tower and unholy feasts. In the forbidden back of the tower lurk the forgotten remnants of its researches into Demonology and Summoning, as well as many horribly dangerous devices it has cobbled together when the hunger for power and magic briefly drown its body’s baser drive for meat.

*Consider the Feasts to be a multiple castings of Create Stuff That Looks Like Food But Really Isn’t, combined with some extra illusion magic (servants and such). For added ick factor, there’s always the option of using Makhali’s last set of victims as the source material.

Ali Ibn Sawad, Herpepotens, Vocator Serpenticae

Ali is held in the deepest confidences by the ensorcelled Bashah of Tangiers. The Kingdoms of Castille and Aragon do hold him accus’d of direst Sorceries and of Consorting with Demons; to wit, his bruited conferences with a being of the name “VALIS” who does provide advisings and false prophecy. Sawad speaketh to all those in thrall to the Serpent of Eden, and may hold Snakes and other scaled beasts at his whimful Command.
We, the King of Castille and the Queen of all Aragonians and Pamplonese, rightful Sovereigns of all Iberia, hereby proclaim a reward of one hundred-weight of pure Silver for his head, and further its weight in Carbuncles. To this, His Eminence the Cardinal of Valencia adds the promise of a Plenary Indulgence, relieving the weight of all Sins save true Blasphemy.
Any Criminal or Heretic within our power who wishes to undertake this task will be granted a year and a day of Parole; success will grant them a full pardon, but flight shall win them only Banishment and a Warrant of Death.

(The entity “VALIS” is a deliberate fabrication. Ali is the reborn soul of a high priest of Valusia, incarnated through his millenial machinations in a body which fits him ill indeed. He retains his ancient favor with the Snakefolk, and knows their Words of Command. His actions and advice are calculated to bring about a vast war, between and among the Mohammedan and Christian alike. In the chaos, he will take passage with trusted mercenaries and seek to excavate the sleeping-chambers of his folk beneath the newly-discovered Spanish province known as “Alta California”. Of course, the mercenaries are both warm-blooded and somewhat expendable.. and his folk hunger.)