From Home Campaign to Your Campaign

Welcome to anther installment of Madness Mondays, where I show you a peak behind the development of The Vile Magic of Argonax the Mad, a one-man-show product I’m working on for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

The alert among you may notice that I missed last week. That’s because I got kidney stones (and still have them as of the time of this writing) and spent a lot of the day in the hospital and doctor’s offices. I mention that just because that kind of delay is exactly the sort of thing that can badly impact a freelancer’s schedule, and if at all possible you need to make allowances for it. Since I’m working on Argonax in my spare time, it’s the first thing that gets cut if I find myself behind schedule. So I’m only three weeks into this, and I’m already two weeks behind.

However, I have gotten some work done, a little of which I’m going to share for you. Argonax is a background character from one of my campaigns, and not one that’s had much screen-time. When I’m developing ideas for use in just my own campaign, my notes are often the barest sketches, designed to remind me what I was thinking more than record everything I know about an idea. When I want to take one of those ideas and make it a professional product, one of the hardest things is to make sure I actually write down everything important, since customers will only know what I tell them. I often have an idea fully developed for my own games without writing down even 10% of what needs to go in a product designed to explain the idea to other people.

To show an example of how this works, I’m presenting my home notes on the background of Argonax the Mad, followed with my introduction to him for The Vile Magic of Argonax the Mad. The first is a throwaway line in my notes on how inevitables fit into my own games. The second is a much longer, more fleshed-out presentation that makes the idea useable by other GMs… or will once it has a lot more game rules and material to back it up!

OKCS Campaign Notes:
Three Impossible Mortals: The inevitables refer to Three Impossible Mortals: creatures that are not god, titan, outsider, or dragon, but who nevertheless manage to do things mortals are not supposed to be able to do. Despite this appearing to be a violation of the Great Machine of the Cosmos, the inevitables take no action against the 3. Lower level inevitables do not know why this is, and if senior inevitables know, they aren’t talking. The 3 Impossible Immortals are; Argonax the Mad (keeps killing & resurrecting himself to learn all possible magic & how to create artifacts), Cornelius Onitor (“Of No Interesting Title or Rank, which he shortened to O.N.I.T.O.R. when signing his maps & atlases, the founder of the Wayfarer’s League & the discoverer of the first Wendings), and The Silent Emperor (The First Kasmith, the mortal who first learned to take the Ankharan concept of the :animating” part of the soul and use it to create golems — may never communicate for he is a high priest of Sutehk & betrayed that god, so his voice is Sutehk’s voice, so if he ever communicates at all, in any way, with anyone, his patron god will find him).)

Section II of The Vile Magic of Argonax the Mad
The Mad One
Argonax the Mad is a legendary spellcaster who appears in myths and parables found the world over. While details of his existence, ranging from his race and the timeline of his life, vary in these tales, they all agree on a single point – Argonax was a powerful spellcaster who sought to rediscover what he called the art of high artifice. This theoretical magical study was supposedly the technique used to create artifacts by the gods and heroes of the ancient past, long lost to mortal craftsmen. While the reason for his endless quest to rediscover this art varies from story to story, the common thread of Argonax legends are his obsession to discover how to create artifacts at any cost, and the unspeakable price he paid in this quest.

One of the reasons tales of Argonax vary so wildly is that the mad mage concluded his quest to regain knowledge long since lost to mortals would require both more than one lifetime of study, and access to lore and instruction from long-dead weavers of magic. Thus he undertook what he called the College Obscura, a plan to teach himself the arts of all races and sages, not limiting himself to that known by the living or members of a single bloodline.

In its simplest form, the College Obscura called for Argonax to die at the end of his first natural lifetime, after casting a ritual that would allow him to roam the lands of the dead as a sapient spirit. During these deathly travels he would seek out and study at the feet of great masters of eldritch lore no longer among the living. Once he had gained all the knowledge he could from the lands of the dead, he would trigger the second part of the ritual he cast in life, and be reincarnated as a member of a new race. Through his childhood he would gradually regain the full memory of his previous life (and death), and be able to learn the secret lore kept by the sages of his new race. And when that new life came to a close, he would again perform the College Obscura ritual, allowing him to seek out new masters of magic in the lands of the dead.

According to myth, Argonax has taken this trip, through a new race’s life to the lands of the dead and back into life as a member of a new race, many times. No one can agree if he was originally a dwarf, or elf, or human, or dragon, though most stories agree he has been all these things many times by now. Of course, no living mind is designed to hold the knowledge gathered in a dozen lifetimes, and thus in each reincarnation, Argonax has become a little less sane. His skills at magic are unchanged, but his memories of his past lives is, at best, blended.

Further Argonax intends to leave no avenue unexplored in his drive to recover the art of high artifice, and thus has turned to dark and forbidden experiments in most of his lifetimes. He is credited with creating many of the hybrid monsters that plague civilization, inventing new curses, poisons, and diseases, and his failed efforts at creating artifacts are often given as the source of the most dangerous cursed magic items. Believing he must understand all aspects of magic to achieve his goal, Argonax has developed spells, hexes, and prayers designed to accomplish horrific goals for no better reason than to see if such manipulations of magic were possible. Essentially Argonax believes that if it were possible to learn the secrets he seeks through only ethical and moral means, someone would have done it by now.

This, then, is the confused legacy of Argonax the Mad, the para-living and deathly scholar, and the creator of many horrors in the name of knowledge. Though his intent is not evil, and most of his creations are more “dreadful” or “horrific” than evil, there is good reason his researches have come to be known as the Vile Magics. Argonax does not care what happens to his new spells and
techniques after he masters them, and many can easily be turned to tyrannical and evil ends.

Because of his many great successes in creating new ways to use magic, many unethical spellcasters spend considerable time seeking lore connected to Argonax the Mad and his Vile Magics. While it is certain that numerous of his creations have gone uncredited to him, and some evils created by others have been placed at his feet, Argonax has gone to some lengths to ensure he, himself, can recognize his own work. Always fearful that he would forget some eldritch trivia that would ultimately allow him to create artifacts, Argonax in every lifetime marks his workbooks and labors with his sigil – a triangle with a bloodshot eye in the center. Similarly, his spells and incantations include signature phrases and methods of controlling magic that mark them as his work.

Of course such marks can also be found by others, and have led to the rise of a dangerous cult.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on March 19, 2012, in Pathfinder Development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Argonax’s (expanded) fluff is terrific! By itself, that should be enough for GMs to use as a plot hook, but the mechanics almost always have fun bits.

    … I may have to steal “Onitor” for one of my characters …

  2. I like the three impossible mortals, an excellent campaign secret, in the vein of the dungeon craft essays (by Ray Winniger?) There is little mention of Argonax’s ethical discoveries (as he states he will learn all magic, equal parts good and bad. But your know the bad publicity and the madness can stain the good one does.

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