Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Moon is a Sorcerer - Effects of Lunar Light or Lack Thereof

"At the end of the lunar cycle there are two or three nights of complete darkness, called the kamwonag’anga “the one seen by the practitioner.”  Only those with a ken extended through the knowledge and use of magical medicines can see the moon then; it is “there” but “invisible” to ordinary folk.  The moon is a “sorcerer” at this time, using its own remarkable powers to effect passage from the eastern horizon where its last sliver was observed to the western where the new moon will appear.  Fish and game may be seen in extraordinary numbers during these days of tenebrous nights, but as one man said, “the moon is a great sorcerer, he is bad, he closes the game and fish and prevents us people from catching them.”  What is more, lions and other dangerous beasts “wander about excessively” then.  Moonlight is auspicious and the personified moon “beneficent,” showing man his path through the woods.  For a few days, however, the moon is a “sorcerer” and denies man “his” light and the fish and game so tantalizingly, so tauntingly placed before him." - Perfect Lions, Perfect Leaders by Allen F. Roberts


The moon is a sorcerer ... when I first read the passage above, this phrase captured my imagination.  What does the moon do when he is a sorcerer?  What does he want?  Many cultures seem to have associations with moonlight and madness, but what about the lack of moonlight?  The time when the moon is invisible, when he is teleporting.  What is it like to be a practitioner of the art, one who is attuned to the moonlight and what it shows?  Roll a d8 or chose one of the effects below depending on the phase of the moon.


  1. The moon becomes a giant eye that stares incessantly at the party no matter where they go. Practitioners of sorcery are aware of this. Before announcing this effect, have all players who can use magic give you a taboo of some kind. Then reveal that the moon is watching them and they know they will be severely punished if they break these taboos or allow anyone they associate with to do so.  Follow through if needs be.
  2. Invisible beings are sometimes caught in a moonbeam; they are easier for a mage to see.
  3. One magic-using PC becomes maniacally obsessed with silver. They will go to great lengths to obtain silver that they see and take risks to acquire it – consider temporarily changing their alignment with regards to silver to Chaotic Evil (perhaps borrowing from Dark Sun’s water rules). They may steal from NPCs and even PCs if they think they can do it without being caught. If they have a silver weapon they will use this over all others; if they don’t have one, they will try to acquire one, etc.
  4. The full moon descends to the planet and chases those who use magic.  If they are caught they are utterly destroyed.  The specifics of this (how big the moon is when it comes to the planet, how fast, if there is a way to defeat it and how, etc) are left to the ref.
  5. The party becomes lost. Somehow they wind up in an area they cannot recall getting to – a place that is disconnected from the area they have explored. They recall walking along feeling slightly hypnotized, just putting one foot in front of another and following the person in front of them, not paying attention, lost in their own thoughts as they plod along, but suddenly all of them realize they are somewhere they have not been before, and they stop and look at each other – “I was following you.” “But I was following you!” In truth whoever was first in the marching order was following the moon.
  6. The moon takes a piece of gear from all magic using characters in trade for its light. This piece of gear simply vanishes.
  7. This moonlight, which is only visible to practitioners of sorcery, is attracted to particular people and “sticks” to them, so that they are illuminated with a soft glow for the duration of the night. They are easier to hit with missile weapons (+2 on rolls to hit) but shed light as the spell in a 30 foot radius. This is not dispel-able and is not affected by anti-magic etc. Roll some percentage for party members as well as those the party encounters to determine if the light is attracted to them in this way (or just determine it arbitrarily).
  8. Sorcerers are able to see future events; one party member is selected and can ask the ref for the likely effects of a particular action once in the time from sunset to sunrise.


  1. Under the strange light of the gibbous moon, the PCs look, sound, and act …. Different. Players swap charisma scores in some randomly determined way.
  2. Sorcerers can see the strange marks which appear on a PCs skin when it is viewed under the moonlight. This could be a message of some kind, or it could be Aklo or written Theolal or a map or it could be nothing at all, just a strange patten caused by the PC resting their flesh against something. The marks may or may not be permanent.
  3. The moonlight makes an object “come to life” – it becomes animate, conscious and able to speak, have opinions, etc. The animating force dissipates when the sun rises. This object is only animate to those with the power to see.
  4. Sorcerers are more conscious of ambushes and the light makes them easier to see. The party is surprised half as much as is usual, and, if an enemy party has a magic user, the party surprises them half as much as usual.
  5. A single time during the gaming session, a single PC sorcerer is able to detect ALL of the traps and tricks within sight range as they are revealed in the gibbous light (note the moonlight must shine upon these things in order to reveal them). If this ability is not used, it fades with the sunrise.
  6. A ghost follows the party around for the night, visible to those with the power to use magic; it isn’t a “monster” as such, and can only impact the material world with much mental effort, and even then the effects are subtle. It might be able to whisper a word in a PC’s ear, or distract them at an inopportune moment. It has very limited poltergeist abilities – it cannot move anything heavier than a pound / half a kilogram. But it could potentially latch or unlatch a lock, or otherwise help or interfere with the PCs. The Ref can determine if this ghost is from someone the PCs encountered in the past – but it does not have to be.
  7. Animals are inexplicably friendly towards the party, even those who might otherwise attack them or run from them.
  8. If they concentrate, sorcerers are able to see through barriers such as walls if they are thin enough. “Thin enough” is whatever the ref says it is.


  1. The moon affects the value of coins. Roll a d4 – on a 1 or 2, they are worth only 50% as much as normal; on a 3 or 4, they are worth 150%. The value of the coins goes back to normal at sunrise, and the change is not obvious to the PCs; it only comes into play if they decide to buy something that evening.
  2. At precisely midnight, time stops for everything and one except one random magic using PCs. This lasts for ten minutes, then time resumes its normal flow.
  3. PCs feel hypnotized and possessed, as though an intrusive alien presence is influencing their actions. Players swap character sheets and play a different character until sunrise.
  4. All written material becomes unintelligible to sorcerers under the light of the half moon.
  5. Magic-using PCs become two dimensional for the night and are thus able to fit into the thinnest of cracks – they can thus slide under doors, into cave crevices, etc. However, they are incredibly ineffective combatants when two dimensional, since they have to adjust the angle of their attack in ways not at all familiar to them, and completely whiff three quarters of the time or more.
  6. Spells fail a quarter of the time, and another quarter of the time they are twice as potent (in terms of effect, duration, etc).
  7. There is an unusual and colorful indicator of the party’s route for the night. For example, butterflies that glow with moonlight follow the party wherever they go, or small black flowers sprout where they have stepped.
  8. A mage can see the true nature of the world under the light of this moon. Such a reality is crippling, throwing the PC into an existential crisis. They are either paralyzed with the utter meaninglessness of it all (50%) or they suddenly see no sense in the survival instinct and will hurl themselves into danger no matter how foolhardy (50%).


  1. This light rubs against blades borne by obeah-men and practitioners and sharpens them until they will cut light.  Up to the ref if they implement this as a damage bonus or in a more narrative way.
  2. Normally docile animals become aggressive towards mages, who are attacked by possums, or racoons, or deer, or domestic cats, etc.
  3. The radiance of the moon makes one randomly chosen PC magic user recognized and adored by nearly all NPCs. They are famous and largely admired, though no one they speak with can tell them exactly why. A few NPCs might loathe the character and party, again for undiscernible reasons. In any event, they will be recognized, and an NPC might start conversing with them by saying, “oh my god, it’s YOU!” or “oh, it’s you.”
  4. The light reveals vulnerabilities to the mage. The threat range of their critical hits is doubled.
  5. The thin light of the crescent moon is surprisingly heavy – sorcerers are unable to stand, and may only crawl about on all fours until the sun rises.
  6. Sorcerers are unable to heal while exposed to direct moonlight.
  7. Invisible creatures are fully visible to mages. Visible creatures are invisible.
  8. Any magic user who is under the effects of extreme stress (including combat) has a ten percent chance to begin randomly teleporting once per round (DM could use blink spell or something else as they prefer).


  1. This moonlight is nonexistent and thus mages no longer need to use their muscles to hold up the light of the moon. They can use this muscle power for other purposes – refs could give a small bonus to overall STR for the night or allow a PC to complete some feat of str successfully once, even if it seems unlikely.
  2. Sorcerers in the party are unable to see attackers. These are not invisible. It is just that the PCs cannot see them; they are hidden by the sorcerer moon.
  3. A mage is able to see lies under the dark clouds of the new moon.  What these look like (and what they might be able to do) is up to the ref.
  4. Dead sorcerers left under the empty night sky from dusk until dawn are resurrected at sunrise.
  5. An important mage (PC or NPC) disappears and is nowhere to be found until a sliver of the moon is visible again.
  6. The Gods are paying attention. Calls for divine intervention are twice as likely to be successful, and sometimes a god may be called even inadvertently by using their name.
  7. From dusk until dawn, sorcerers are able to speak fluently with the dead.
  8. Sorcerers can see secrets. Magic using PCs pick another player and state something general their character suspects of that player’s character. This turns out to be true in some way, though it may not be in an obvious or expected way. For example, Player A may say “Character A suspects that Character B is not who he seems to be.” It is then up to Player B to make that true through play; perhaps player B’s character is secretly in league with forces opposed to the party, or perhaps they are a permanently shapechanged animal in human form, or are, unwittingly, the prince or king of some obscure principality even though they are currently a pauper and vagabond.


  1. MORE TABWA POSTING - the beginning of a glorious era. the sorcerer moon feels, in a way, like a pointed rejoinder to the imperial Luba moon - related but mercurial. excellent work here.

    1. I seriously considered pointing out that this was another Roberts-inspired post, but I feel the quote should be enough!

  2. The idea of using not just a full moon, but all the phases, is a really cool idea. I will need to think about this more. I see the mechanical / gameable implications in these tables, but I'm not as much seeing the thematic implications of the phases, but I'm also not very familiar with this train of thought. I can feel around the edges of it, but I might just be imagining. Did you design these tables with a theme in mind for each phase and I'm just missing it, or was that not as much your intention?

    1. I think your intuition is good. I originally designed the effects with more of a "theme" for each phase in mind - there was some weird stuff in there about the gibbous moon being tied to "swelling" or "growing" even though gibbousness isn't tied to swelling per se, it's really waxing that is tied to that theme. And the half moon got a bunch of kind of fifty fifty stuff. I wound up pulling a lot of it out though, so it makes sense to me that you kind get it "around the edges" - would say that's pretty observant really!

      Ultimately I am really interested in the idea of astral bodies having in game implications. I did a little generator on it in an earlier post. One thing I really liked about the Book of Ebon Bindings was the fact that certain summonings had to coincide with particular astrological events, or couldn't be worked at other times. I find the concepts of astrological impacts on magic fascinating, but it rapidly gets very complicated and I haven't been able to simplify things in a way that is satisfying to me yet without also basically stealing the idea of the Bethorm pocket-dimension for a solar system from Tekumel wholesale. This grew in part out of the idea of tracking the lunar cycle in game, but it's a bit half-baked!

    2. Ya I can totally imagine how it can get really complicated really quickly. Coding it up might make it easier haha ;).

    3. It really would! I might be able to find something that already exists, but if I can't, I might tap you for some help - assuming I ever get to the point where the ideas are developed enough for coding to be worthwhile!