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Dark Magic 101: You Too Can Master the Dark Arts

Do you want to cast spells, but weren't fortunate enough to be born with a link to a primal source? As long as you're morally gray, dark magic might be right for you!

One of the most exciting (and notorious) paths a human can take in the world of The Dragon Prince is that of becoming a dark mage. Due to the sacrifice required, dark magic is abhorrent in the eyes of elves and dragons alike. Yet, despite the heavy cost, it has many uses. Let’s get into the basics of what you need to know if you’re thinking about creating your very own dark mage!

Heavy Cost

If you’ve already watched a few episodes of the show, you’ve certainly seen Viren and Claudia do some amazing things with the near-limitless power that comes with their vocation. And don’t worry, we’ll get to the cool stuff in a second! I mean, I am already thinking about the wild purple tentacle spell Claudia knows. But first, we should talk about where the bad reputation comes from—the heavy cost of using dark magic.

It’s pretty simple. Each time you cast a dark magic spell, you draw energy from a magical creature component and effectively destroy it. In Tales of Xadia terms, you first acquire a magical creature asset, then when you cast the spell, you convert the asset into corrupted stress. How that works exactly can be found in the Tales of Xadia Game Handbook, but the gist is that you go from having a thing to obtaining corruption. You can already see how that could get ugly over time.

And sure, sometimes it can be dragon snot you’re using rather than an entire living being. But the more powerful your spell, the more powerful the asset must be. So if you’re looking to become a highly sensitive dark mage who wouldn’t hurt a fly, we have some bad news—you’re probably going to need to squish a fly if you want to cast anything more powerful than a magic purple flame for a candle.

Great Power

For all the costs, it’s easy to see the appeal. Not only does it sound cool, but the spells aren’t limited by their association with one primal magic. From death and destruction to transformation and illusion, there are quite a few directions your spells could take.

Already flipping through the Game Handbook’s pages for inspiration? Inside, you’ll find spells that Claudia and Viren already know. We also provide some for the pregenerated playable character Tressal, and list a tome’s worth of spells that a mage who wields dark magic may have learned in their time.

But you don’t need to feel limited to these spells. Mages are perfectly capable of studying magic until they invent spells of their own. You just need to follow the three tenets:

  • Are the magical creature assets needed powerful enough to do this?
  • Is your character capable of taking on corruption from more than one asset, if necessary?
  • When talking to your Narrator, do they think this spell is appropriate for the game?

We have no doubt your “giant ghost crab that can devour a city” is a cool concept, but in particular, having a Narrator to bounce ideas off of will keep the spell from seeming silly and unrealistic for the world you share with the other players.

Oh, and don’t forget! Dark mages tend to incant something when they cast a spell. We also provide examples of these in the Game Handbook, but generally speaking, it’s a short word or phrase that symbolizes the spell—only spoken backwards. Yeah, super creepy.

Inspiration for Your Table

Don’t forget, there’s so much more to Cortex! You can subscribe to the Tales of Xadia newsletter, or visit our YouTube and Twitch channels to watch some playthroughs of our tales!

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