Dark Schools

There are darker avenues of magic than the specialist schools. Some places have taken dark knowledge and woven it into the very fabric of magic, creating different, more powerful versions of spells in given schools. This practice has manifested in the creation of schools of dark magic. These schools of magical craft conform to the standard wizard schools of magic and the associated penalties and benefits of doing so as described in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. However, unlike the wizard schools, these dark magic schools cannot be taken at 1st level and require both the taking of a feat and the admission to the dark magic school’s associated club, cult, or guild (as described with the feats below). To join one of the dark magic schools, a character must already be a wizard specialised in the associated arcane school of magic.

The issues of alignment and these schools is something a GM must consider. The rules here suggest that any alignment can use these feats, since the sweetest form of revenge can often be to use an enemy’s own weapons against him. If you feel, however, that such dark knowledge is not conducive to good-aligned characters, then consider adding a further prerequisite of alignment. Only specialist wizards are able to take these feats, and only in their chosen sub-school.

Most of the feats cause some form of ability score drain as a prerequisite. This drain cannot be recovered by any means (including wish or miracle) as long as the character possesses the feat. Only by renouncing the dark magic school and voluntarily abandoning the feat (which cannot be replaced by another) can the character then undertake to remove the ability score drain she has suffered. In addition, each feat has a special that is not generally defined in mechanical terms and is for use by the GM (or player and GM) to determine lasting effects upon the use of such dangerous knowledge. You may wish to play such effects as simple background, or you may wish to make them more manifest.

Frightful Abjuration

Through dark gifts and study you have tapped into the fabric of an unplace that sheds greater protective powers.

Prerequisite: Must be an abjurer. The study and association eats at your soul, subtly changing your physiology. You take 1 point each of Constitution and Charisma drain that cannot be recovered. You must study the school through membership of a scattered gypsy cult that exists across the land and must sacrifice a magic item worth at least 10,000 gp to the cult to become a member.

Benefit: You may cast all abjuration spells as though they are heightened but spell preparation only takes up the normal slot.

Special: Over time, this dark magic may significantly alter your appearance.

Unspeakable Conjuration

The creatures you summon have a disgusting and twisted taint and appear sickened. They are wreathed in curiously unsettling muscles.

Prerequisite: Must be a conjurer. There are a small number of groups who use the dark secrets of this magic. Membership in a group teaching this power requires a specific painful ritual, during which your flesh is hooked and torn. A week after the ceremony, a third school (player’s choice) of magic becomes an opposition school and you take 1 point of Constitution drain that cannot be recovered.

Benefit: You can summon creatures of greater power than normal by sacrificing your Constitution. For each point of Constitution damage that you voluntarily take at the time of the summoning, the summoned creature gains 1 Hit Die and 2 points of Constitution itself (or in the case of undead, 1 Hit Die and 2 points of Charisma).

Special: Drawing such creatures into the world has a lasting effect upon your soul and your own appearance may subtly change over a number of years, taking on the brutish and preternatural physique of the creatures you share your dreaming hours with.

Dark Divination

You can see the unseen that lurks in the everyday world just beneath notice.

Prerequisite: Must be a diviner. A ritual opens his soul to unseen things that lurk in the everyday world of men unseen. Seeing these creatures risks madness, and you must make a successful DC 20 Will save or be struck by insanity (as the spell, CL 18). Some users of this power are fortune-tellers and seers who have insinuated themselves throughout the land. They pool their hideous knowledge for some as-yet-unrevealed purpose, and are known to locate and secretly sequester members or attempted members that have succumbed to insanity in order to read the darkness in their madness.

Benefit: You gain the ability to consult the unseen creatures. These unseen creatures give you access to all divination spells up to 9th level. At any time, you can request to learn such a spell by consulting the creatures and must make a successful Will save (DC 10 + 1/spell level) or take 1 point of Wisdom drain that cannot be recovered. Furthermore, the creatures are able to grant you the ability to cast any divination spells that you already know but do not have prepared by sacrificing a prepared spell of the same level as spontaneous casting. The use of such powers is dangerous, however, and you must make a successful Will save (DC 10 + 2/spell level) or take 1d6 Wisdom damage.

Special: The whisperers lurk at the edges of your life and have a permanent effect upon you over time. The voices grow louder, the shapes they lurk in grow more distinct, and the things more demanding of your time, causing you to be easily distracted and to sometimes enter fugues.

Shackled Enchantment

You draw forces into your enchantments that are rarely encountered. You are horribly aware of their presence in your magic and may become sickened by their presence whilst drawing their power.

Prerequisite: Must be an enchanter. This secret is more widely known than some, and several cults have developed that use it. You must risk that the things you wish to manipulate may become aware of you.

The ritual lasts a single night, during which 1,000 gp worth of rare oils and incenses must be burnt. You end the night by making a successful DC 20 Will save. If successful, you harness the powers you wish to use; but if you fail, they harness you. Characters who succumb to such influence still gain the feat, but the things draw arcane power away from you and you lose one caster level worth of spells for every 5 caster levels you possess, rounded down. So a 7th-level shackled enchanter is able to prepare spells as only a 6th-level shackled enchanter, though his caster level remains 7th.

Benefit: Each time you cast an enchantment spell, you have the option of spontaneously using any metamagic feats that you possess at a lower-than-normal spell slot. The metamagic feats used do not affect the level of the spell but cause you to take 1 point of Constitution damage for each higher-level slot that the metamagic spell costs. A character casting an extended hold monster would take 1 point of Constitution damage, whereas a quickened hold monster would cause 4 points of Constitution damage.

Special: The presence of such creatures is shackling, even if the wizard appears in control. Over time, the presence of the creature subtly changes the wizard’s movements and actions so that he eventually appears to be hobbled. In time, this may reduce the character’s speed and possible Dexterity.

Parlous Evocation

The fires of Heaven and Hell are used only at great risk, but the rewards make such bargains seem worthwhile for the few who have the opportunity to make them.

Prerequisite: Must be an evoker. You must perform a ritual during which you voluntarily enter a roaring fire and succeed at a DC 20 Fortitude save. If successful, you are welcomed as a member of a small and scattered group of grim, scarred evokers, and take 1 point of Charisma drain that cannot be recovered by any means. If the save fails, you take 1d4 points of Constitution drain and 1d6 Charisma drain, and are not able to gain the feat.

Benefit: The elements you use in your evocations are terrible: the ice seethes and bites, the fires immolate and feast. When casting an evocation spell, you can choose to spontaneously apply any metamagic feat you possess (limited to one metamagic feat per spell), but at the standard spell level. The casting comes at a cost, and you burn, chill, or boil along with the spell, taking 1d2 points of Constitution damage for every spell level of increase the metamagic feat would have required.

Special: You carry an air of brimstone, a whiff of ozone, a feel of the elements. Over time, these elements become harder to control; small fires spontaneously occur occasionally while you sleep, or you may awaken frozen to your bed. Over long exposure, these effects physically manifest as scarring. The group holding the secret of this power is also suspected of being responsible for one or more of the great fires that have swept the land over the centuries.

Nightmarish Illusion

The power to create illusions lurks deep within your mind, along with the unbridled reality of the id. Tapping into this area is dangerous.

Prerequisite: Must be an illusionist. A scattered and poorly organized group revels in releasing their inner realities upon the world. They possess no special entry requirements, but exposing yourself to the nightmare creatures of the id causes 1d3 points of Wisdom drain that cannot be recovered.

Benefit: All illusion spells you cast have their DC increased by 2.

Special: The things of your inner reality haunt your nightmares. Sleep becomes more difficult and is disturbed by horrific dreams. You occasionally wake up screaming or find yourself sleepwalking.

Terrible Necromancy

As if the forces of necromancy were not wicked enough, you dabble in their darkest and most forbidden facets.

Prerequisite: Must be a necromancer. The ritual to take this feat is terrible and involves you sacrificing a little of your life essence. The essence can take the form of either a permanent level of energy drain or 3 points of Constitution drain, whichever you choose. Neither can be recovered. A shrouded band of necromancers that often dress as lepers or mendicant monks assist in the ritual and partake of a goblet of the new member’s blood.

Benefit: You cast all necromancy spells as though your caster level was 2 levels higher, although you do not gain additional spells or abilities from that higher level of casting.

Special: Slowly but surely your zest for life is drawn away. Over the years the spark dies, the light goes your eyes, the smile from your lips, and the song in your soul. Eventually you began to crave blood for its own sake.

Ill Transmutation

Though all things are bound by physical laws, there are darker threads holding the world together or threatening to draw it apart. You have discovered the means to pluck at these frayed edges to warp the world around you.

Prerequisite: Must be a transmuter. Several small cults have grown up with knowledge of this dark school, and many engineer-wizards have access to it as well. In taking this feat, you risk your own physical form in order to manipulate the physical laws around you. You must make a successful DC 20 Will save or take 1d4 points of Constitution drain that cannot be recovered. Even if successful, you still take 1 point of Constitution drain. This Constitution drain causes subtle changes in your body, though hard to notice at first: perhaps an oddness about the shape of the skull, the length of the jaw, or the shape of the fingers.

Benefit: Each time you cast a transumtation spell, you have the option of spontaneously using any metamagic feats that you possess at a lower-than-normal spell slot. The metamagic feats used do not affect the level of the spell, but cause you to take 1 point of Constitution damage for each higher-level slot the metamagic spell costs. So a character casting an extended bull’s strength would take 1 point of Constitution damage, whereas a quickened bull’s strength would cause 4 points of Constitution damage.

Special: You begin to develop sores and boils. At first, such growths are confined to places such as the groin, armpit, and elbow, but over years they expand and become vile.

Other Feats

Cross threads of such schools have also emerged from time to time, where translators have dabbled in merging one form of dark magic with another. The Shackled Evocation school, for example, enables casters to draw upon forces to harness the powers normally used for enchantment.

True Dark Magic

For those who prefer dark magic to have more bite, you may consider using true dark magic feats. These feats allow the tapping of dark schools of magic at even greater levels, but without the prerequisite of joining any specific associated organization. They represent the individualist’s harrowing research into the darkest of secrets on his own, without any sort of guidance or support. These feats should be extremely rare as they can change the fabric of the game. Use them or not as you wish, or perhaps use them as a feat available only to NPCs.

Only one example of such a feat is given of those few whispered arcana of this type, but others may exist.

True Necromancy

You discover how to draw upon unspeakable powers at the risk of eternal damnation.

Prerequisite: You must sell your soul to some evil power or incarnation of Death. This requires an immediate sacrifice of 1d6 points of Constitution drain that cannot be recovered, and when you die, you cannot be brought back to life by any means. Undead may not take this feat since it requires the presence of a viable soul.

Benefit: You are able to cast any necromancy spell you know at any time whether prepared or not, but doing so is very risky. If you elect to cast a necromancy spell that you do not have prepared, you must immediately make a successful Will save (DC 10 + 2/spell level). If successful, you successfully cast the spell with no penalties. If the save fails, you are still able to cast the spell but take 2 points of Constitution damage per spell level. If the save is failed by 5 or more, the Constitution damage becomes Constitution drain.

Special: Working in such terrible arts has a permanent effect on you as you are slowly drawn toward undeath. You begin to take on subtle aspects of the undead. This slow degeneration occurs over years and decades, but as you reach middle age, such effects become obvious without some sort of disguise. By old age, the features are impossible to conceal without magic, and if you reach venerable age, you resemble little more than a desiccated corpse.

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