View Full Version : Cartogromancy [Spells]

2006-11-28, 01:12 PM

On the Community World Building Forum (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=19) made some substantial alterations to the traditional D&D race roles. One of these alterations is the establishment of the halfling race as a dominant maritime power based on a number of island chains, engaged in worldwide trade (and piracy). Because of this maritime focus, it was proposed that we develop some unique magical navigational aids developed by the halflings (whose ship technology is fairly advanced). To this end, I have crafted a few navigational spells and I'd appreciate some input from the boards on the balance and utility of these spells.

Plot Position (Divination)
Level: Brd 3, Clr 4, Navigation 3, Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, F
Casting Time: 10 minutes
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: No
During the casting of this spell, the caster spreads out a map and places a crystal on the map. The crystal and the map then move to show the caster’s exact location on the map. If the caster is above sea level, the crystal hovers above the map. If the caster is below sea level, the map hovers above the crystal. The spell automatically adjusts to the scale of the map used, including for distances above and below sea level.

This spell in no way alters the map or crystal used. It does not add detail to the map, nor does it correct any inaccuracies in the map used.

Focus: A map and a piece of crystal, spread out on a flat surface.

Mapmaking (Transmutation)
Level: Clr 4, Navigation 4, Sor/Wiz 3
Components: S, M
Casting Time: 10 minutes
Range: Close (25 feet + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One map or writing surface
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No
This spell can either craft a new map or it can enhance and correct an existing map. During casting, the caster spreads the material component on a flat surface and specifies the location he/she desires to map. Over the course of the casting, an accurate map of the desired location (up to 500 square miles) is created on the medium. If the medium is already a map, any errors are corrected and detail is enhanced as necessary. In order to map an area, the caster must have been physically present within the boundaries of the area or experienced the area through a divination spell of 3rd level or higher (or an equivalent), but does not need to be familiar with the entire location, nor does the caster's memory of the location need to be perfect.

Maps created by this spell are reasonably detailed and exceedingly accurate. They show mountain ranges and hills, major rivers and other bodies of water, major cities and roads, and other prominent geographical features (forests, deserts, etc).

Material Component: A map or writing surface (paper, hide, parchment, etc) of at least 10” x 10”. This material component becomes the map and so cannot be reused.

B’Artaign’s Selective Location
Level: Navigation 6, Sor/Wiz 6
Components: V, S, F
Casting Time: 10 minutes
Range: Unlimited (see text)
Target: 10 creatures/level
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No
This spell functions similarly to Plot Position, with the exception that it allows the caster to find the location of a number of creatures equal to 10/level. These creatures must be linked by a common characteristic (i.e. all Plaguetouched, all Iron Golems, all magic users, etc). This characteristic can be of any level of specificity.

To cast this spell, the caster spreads a map out on a flat surface and places a pile of small stones or markers in the center of the map. As the spell is cast, the stones spread out to show the exact location of one of the members of the specified group (similar to the functioning of Plot Position. The spell reveals all creatures (up to the spell’s limit) within the area shown on the map, regardless of the size of the map.

Focus: A map and a number of small stones or markers.

Stay on Course (Divination)
Level: Brd 1, Clr 2, Navigation 2, Sor/Wiz 1
Components: V, S, F
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 hour/level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No
Upon casting this spell, the caster specifies by name a specific location (the name of a city, address, geographical feature, etc). He/she then knows when he/she is on course to arrive at that location. He/she does not know exactly how to get there, but rather is alerted whenever he/she strays from the correct course. The spell selects the shortest, most direct physical route to the specified location, but does not take into account objects or creatures along that route, nor does it alert the caster of specific actions to take in order to successfully arrive at the destination. However, it does select a course that avoids relatively permanent physical obstacles (walls, chasms, mountain ranges, etc) wherever possible. Both the caster and the specified location must be on the same plane, and must be within 100 miles of each other. The spell lasts until the duration expires or the caster arrives at the destination.

Focus: A map showing the terrain around the specified location. This map doesn’t have to include the route between the caster and the location, nor does it have to be extremely detailed or accurate.

Navigation Domain

Granted Power: The character adds Survival and Knowledge (Geography) to his/her list of class skills. The character also gains the ability to use Know Direction as a spell-like ability 3 times/day.

Navigation Domain Spells
1. Locate Object
2. Stay on Course
3. Plot Position
4. Mapmaking
5. Freedom of Movement
6. B’Artaign’s Selective Location
7. Find the Path
8. Discern Location
9. Teleportation Circle

Map of Memory – Major Wondrous Item

One of Cartogromancy’s greatest contributions to the navigator’s art is the development of this rare and powerful item. To all outward appearances, the Map of Memory appears to be an ordinary map, worn and faded from long use. It is a large map, about 36 inches long on each side, and written on well-tanned hide. To those who know its secret, however, it is a tool of inestimable value. The Map of Memory is a map that is constantly growing in size and detail as its owner’s geographic knowledge increases. If the owner passes over an area, the Map of Memory adds major features of that area to its corpus of geographical information. The Map of Memory is thus always increasing in size and detail as its owner experiences new places and looks at new maps. However, the Map of Memory does not record verbal descriptions of locations, so if someone gives the owner directions, those directions do not appear on the map until the owner actually traverses the territory.

In addition to its mapping powers, the Map of Memory can show any portion of the information it contains at any resolution, allowing the owner to see the entire world in little detail or a specific location in great detail. The Map only records major landmarks (large cities, street names, named geographical features, etc), though the owner can take a Standard Action to make it include something it normally wouldn’t (the location of a specific house or a small pond, for example).

Moderate Divination; CL 5; Craft Wondrous Item, Mapmaking; Price 30,000 gp; Weight 2 lbs

My primary concern is the balance of these creations, but I'm also concerned that their application is so specific that few people will learn and use the spells. Any input you have on making them more balanced and more interesting would be welcome. Also, if anyone has any ideas for expanding the discipline of magical navigation, post up!


2006-11-28, 02:18 PM
My problem, with Stay On Course, is that it might show me the most direct physical route, but there could very well be a chasm in the way, and if I have walk around, it's going to spend the entire trip 'alerting me' that I'm off course. My alternate suggestion is have the destination appear as a column of light in the eyes of the caster. Because if I'm wandering in a desert, a vague indication of water several miles off is helpful, but that's a lot of desert to have to search, even with the spell guiding me.

2006-11-28, 02:53 PM
Some great spells there, though they circumvent many divinations quite nicely.

Before, making maps would be a very laborious process, requiring find the path, locate creature and repeat scrying, these spells do change that, but that's okay, because they're focused spells, and they're not unreasonable.

Plot Position looks a bit underpowered, all it does it tell you where you are. Merely finding a landmark will do that (why is it level 6?). Mapmaker's perfect, but selective location seems very underpowered for a 9th level spell. Stay on Course seems quite similar to find the path, but much lower spell, but i don't see a problem with it otherwise.

I really do like these though, non-combat spells are always great to see.

2006-11-28, 03:11 PM
Plot Position looks a bit underpowered, all it does it tell you where you are. Merely finding a landmark will do that (why is it level 6?).

I'll second that it should be easier than Find the Path, and I'd consider dropping it to level 5. However, it is still a useful spell; finding a landmark is somewhat difficult when you're a week from sight of land in every direction.

2006-11-28, 03:51 PM
I'm currently in a game in which I play the navigator of an ocean-going vessel. I would jump all over each of these spells if I had them available.

I agree that Plot Position needs to be a relatively low level spell. By the time my character would have a 6th level spell, he'd also have enough ranks in the appropriate skills that he could regularly determine his location anyway.

Why is Stay on Course the only one of these spells available to bards? With their archetypical wanderlust, one would think that wandering minstrels would need navigational assistance on a regular basis.

2006-11-28, 06:02 PM
Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate it, and I'm glad people find these spells interesting.

My intention with Stay on Course was that it would chart a course around major physical objects, but not around creatures or relatively movable objects (doors, traps, etc) or magical/illusory impedements (hallucinatory terrain, Maze, etc. I've edited the text to make this more clear. Also, the spell requires a specific location (an address or a name), and couldn't be used to find water in the desert.

I'm glad you like the spells. My hope is that they fill such a specific niche that they won't make other spells obsolete. Plot Position for example is based on Discern Location and Locate Creature, but since it is much more limited than Discern Location and more specific than Locate Creature, these spells are still viable options for the dedicated navigator.

I've bumped Plot Position down to a 3rd or 4th level spell and Selective Locator down to a 6th level spell. I hope that makes them more viable without making them overpowered. Again, I think that their use is so specific that the risk of them being truly overpowered is minimized. Also, the virtue of Find the Path is its ability to overcome magical barriers, an ability Stay on Course cannot replicate. I think it's fine as a low-level spell.

Polka Bear
Initially I thought that Bards would only really be interested in Stay the Course, but at your suggestion I've opened some of the others up to Bards as well. Hopefully they work better for you now. And you're welcome to ask your DM to allow you to take these spells. Let me know how they work, if you are successful!

Thanks again, everyone! Any comments on the Map of Memory or the Navigation domain?


2006-11-28, 06:36 PM
I still think plot position is overleveled, at most it's 2nd level spell material, 3rd level gives you gems such as fly and displacement.

2006-11-28, 06:42 PM
with the map of memory, anyone who owns it could just walk into a map store and look at the maps in the store and their map of memory would expand accordingly? it may be just flavor for this, but there could be some people who would actually do what i just said.

2006-11-28, 07:04 PM
The OOB:
I can see your point about comparable 3rd level spells, but based on Locate Object (a 2nd/3rd level spell) and Locate Creature (a 4th level spell), I think that Plot Position is just about correct. It gives you detailed information instead of allowing you to sense direction or location, but it's specific enough to make it lower level than Locate Creature. Sure, it's no Fly or Fireball, but it is a useful spell that can be crucial in a pinch. I think I'm comfortable with it being a 3rd level spell, especially since it's so focused.

Good call. I hadn't thought of that. I will change it to require spending at least 30 minutes examining a map before the content is added to the Map of Memory. Will that be enough of a fix, or should I eliminate that option entirely?

Thanks for the input!


2006-11-28, 07:08 PM
make it so the person has to purchase the map and place it on the map of memory in order for it to be on the map of memory as normal. that or the person has to purchase it and it disappears from their hands and only appears on the map of memory when the receipt is placed on the map of memory

2006-11-28, 11:14 PM
Ahh but what if the map has mistakes? could they be fixed?

2006-11-29, 12:43 AM
I think that since the item is magical, it gets a will save to recognise the false details. failure results in the map showing the wrong details. if the owner gets another map with the right details, the map gets a will save to "correct" the problem. if it fails, the map still changes with different details. the owner of the map may correct the map by making another map with the correct details, but only if the owner or any of his/her crew have seen the place.

2006-11-29, 06:04 AM
I think your missing a necessary step of map alignment and familiarity. One of the things I don't want to take away from the characters is the expertise of translating the map to the real world.

If the map is always right and it knows too much the players (and the DM) lose too much mystery.

I think the spells should function sort of like a GPS that reveals the absolute location of the pc inside of any tracking system s/he knows. Then there is a dc10 navigation check to place the crystal on a map, according to the PC's understanding of it. The Player can take 10 on the action and you preserve the use for Navigation and you make the navigator a necessary part of the equation again. The spell should never take responsibility for the accuracy of the map - just the accuracy of the reading.


2006-11-29, 10:11 AM
I think I'm going to remove the Map of Memory's ability to update using pre-existing maps and lower the price. The ability seems to easily-abused and difficult to adjudicate. I still think it would be a useful item, even without this ability.

I don't think these spells remove the skillful aspect of navigation as much as you envision. Plot Position and Selective Location both act the way you suggest, revealing location but nothing more. In fact, I think that these spells maintain the skillful aspect of navigation better than already-existing spells like Locate Creature, which helps guide you to the destination. In the case of Mapmaking, the maps it creates are accurate and detailed, but no more so than could be done by hand with a bit of work. Remember that the caster must have personal experience with the area, either through physical presence or reasonably advanced divination. This spell just saves time and effort.