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Grage Mordant Arcana
A Note on these Spell Additions:
burning grey
 Vital essence casting risk from the 1979 AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.

Some of these spells like Glitterdust and Know Alignment I used in campaigns when I played long ago, and others I had read about while browsing later editions that I would have liked to use such as Wraithform. Some of these spells are redundant when compared to some of the spells in the many books in 5th edition, but I actually see that more realistic in a fantasy settings, with both deities and mortal casters twisting and/or tweeking spells to fit their specific needs, preferences or a caster's ego. Though I was not fan of D&D 4th edition nor did I ever play it, I did skim the backstory of the edition and enjoyed the Spellplague storyline. Grage was struck by the same Spellplague that struck Toril and Abeir, but it was a weaker wave that entered Grage after temporarily turning humans into Shadar-Kai via the Astral Plane Gate Deterrent Systems (poor Gnomes). The effects in comparison to Toril were minimal with little damage to the environment itself (with the exception of Ahegthna) and the vast majority of races and species escaped becoming Plaguechanged with Spellscarring only possible on the continent of Ahegthna. Spellcasting was affected the most, but the mainly spells brought to Grage after Boccob reigned as the deity of magic and spells that were altered by a spellcaster from older magic formulae.

Mordant Arcana:

The post Spellplague first year had just about every spellcaster attempting to find out which majiks worked, which failed and which would prove fatal if casted. To minimize death and injury, the vast majority of casters and creatures put aside differences to test and record which spells were usable. Even hated enemies collaborated together for a brief time until a quick list of essential spells were found to be safe. After these spells became known did mass collaboration dry up with every archmage?

  • Cantrip: Belch (AD&D Unearthed Arcana, pg.49)
  • Cantrip: Know Direction (AD&D 2nd Edition Tome of Magic, pg.52)
  • 1st level: Angry Ache (Book of Vile Darkness 3e, Pg.85) Slightly Modified
  • 1st level: Bloodhound (3E Spell Compendium, Pg.34)
  • 1st level: Bone Orb (Diablo 2: The Awakening. 2e, Pg.20-21)
  • 1st level: Entropic Shield (Players Handbook. Core Rulebook 1 V3.5, Pg.227)
  • 2nd level: Briar Web (3E Defenders of the Faith: A Guidebook to Clerics and Paladins, Pg.83) Moderately Modified
  • 2nd level: Glitterdust (2E Player's Handbook, pg.142)
  • 2nd level: Know / Obscure Alignment (AD&D Player's Handbook, pg.45)
  • 2nd level: Mist Magic (2E FA1 Halls of the High King, pg.51) Slightly Modified
  • 2nd level: Toothed Tentacle (3E Lost Empires of Faerun, pg.35) Duration Modified
  • 2nd level: Warp Wood (AD&D Orriental Adventures, pg.77) Moderately Modified
  • 3rd level: Allegro (3E USpell Compendium, pg.9)
  • 3rd level: Wraithform (AD&D Unearthed Arcana, pg.69) Slightly Modified
  • 4th level: Force Missile Storm (Dragon Magazine issue# 309. Pg.49)
  • 4th level: Iron Maiden (Diablo II: The Awakening. Pg.29)
  • 4th level: Rusting Grasp (Players Handbook. Core Rulebook 1 V3.5, Pg.273) Slightly Modified
  • 5th level: Darkbolt (The Ruins of Myth Drannor. 2e, Pg.68)
  • 6th level: Fire Spiders (3E Spell Compendium, Pg.92 - 93)
  • 7th level: Avasculate (3E Spell Compendium, Pg.19)
  • 8th level: Gutwrench (Book of Vile Darkness. 3e, Pg.697)

Vitality Devitalization Syndrome (Burning Grey):
The Spellplague had a lasting effect by making a great many spells ranging from a few decades old to ancient ages useless and even dangerous. Over the last twenty five years, great effort (with more success than failure) to bring these spells, incantations and rituals back to the population of Grage. Today these spells can be cast in a manageable manner with only a small portion of vital essence that is quickly replaced from the immediate area around the spellcaster, but regardless the health of the caster is put in jeopardy.

VDS History:
The terms Mordant Arcana and Vitality Devitalization Syndrome (VDS) were coined by the famed gnomish transmuter/artificer Wheezy Dubstepper who after successfully decoding and casting Glitterdust, turned the palest shade of gray and wheeled backwards from his casting platform, falling into his taffy pulling machine. Wheezy survived his ordeal and informed many other mages, but unfortunately others went through similar experiences resulting in grevious injury and death. While the gnome did provide a medically viable term, the slang term Burning Grey/Turning Grey is used by most folks today.

VDS Affliction and Effects:
When casting a spell that has been proven to be Mordant Arcana, the caster must make a constitution save, and on a failure the caster has sacrificed a significant amount of lifeforce. The effects are immediate: Until the end of the caster's next round, strength constitution and charisma checks are made at disadvantage. In addition, all concentration checks to maintain a spell are made with disadvantage for the next 1d3 rounds. With the loss of lifeforce, the caster skin will turn gray with veins and arteries bulging as the skin tightens unnaturally. Most casters turn an ashen gray, hence the slang term "Burning Gray", but in some cases the afflicted spellcaster will turn a gray/ice blue or the will turn dark to just shy of becoming charred black. Thankfully the effects do not stack, but another Mordant Arcana spell cannot be cast for the round that VDS is present.

Outer Mythos Arcana & Formulas:
When Mother Hydra entered Grage, she brought a trove of magic spells, rituals and incantations that span the cosmos. These magical gifts were to be given to her bishops and cultist followers as they progressed in becoming the first deep ones of Grage and further mutating both humanoid and aquatic life. Unfortunately, her scrying of Grage did not help Mother to realize the dominance of the Sahuagin. Upon her arrival, the Sahuagin Empire of Sharpened Shells swarmed the outer being, and a battle ensued that made an entire sea give off such steam and blood that a red hot mist engulfed the western shores of Chauntless. Mother Hydra was victorious, but had taken serious damage. She moved with great speed down and around the continent, going around the Giant Holds, past the waters of the Green Fleet and along the cost of the Pitch Lands before heading east to avoid the Abscaroe coast. It was then in her wanderings that she came upon the ruinous Cracked Eye Seaport. The Gith had seized it at the beginning of the invasion and human/goblinoid forces were forced to destroy the docks as well as most of the buildings to regain the position. As it was rendered mostly useless for the Grage forces, only a skeleton crew was left behind to warn of any returning Gith. Mother Hydra settled in a cratered wall beneath the remains of the docks and easily influenced the two dozen humans, tieflings and half elves occupying the port. Her new followers swiftly killed the few who resisted and made pacts and to become her first warlocks (and Deep Ones) of Grage. To them she bequeathed spells, rituals and formulas that span the universe, and through the temptation of more power her warlocks became priests, and in a war torn world where food and security were sparse, her bounty from the waters and the protection of her fraternal order made her ranks swell.

Please Note: The spells listed below are from Sandy Pertersen's Cthulhu Mythos. I do not want to take his work and make it public in the D&D Beyond database, so these D&D Beyond additions will stay private. Please see the third party links listed below for details.


The Miskatonic River & University:
The Miskatonic River flows from the Everwind Mountains and travels almost the full length of the Nurtured Path before emptying into the deep hollows, a huge group of caverns that push deep into the earthen depths. Unknown to most, the Miskatonic does not pool into the bottom to form some sort of underworld sea, but actually flows through an ancient pre Elf/Dwarf war gate to the River Styx in Stygia of the Nine Hells, it's warmer waters adding to the underground current below the thick burning ice above (fiends chiseled the rock around the gate and rammed it to the bottom of the Styx long ago).

Falumisk to Brainery to University:
Somewhere lost in history, but not long after humans began spreading across the continents, a school of eldritch magic called the Falumisk was formed only two leagues from the hellgate. It is said that the practices of these humans were depraved and disgusting to the point the elves of the time killed all within the Falumisk, but the actual truth is lost to time for humanity, and the elves are not talking.
The ruins of the school languished for over untold years, until after the Drowian Wars when Lothian Drow used threats against the Gromish town of Clincherville to access a cave system just past the base of the town's hilltop. These Lolthian Drow scavenged and later rebuilt the school as they tunneled and teleported to places that would eventually become outposts and the Lolthian Vault. A century later when the bulk of the Cult of Lolth moved on, a Drow Matron Mother became the first Magister of the Miskatonic Brainery for Eldritch Fortification. After a century, the gnomes were again appoached by the drow with both bullying and bribes - despite that the original Clincherville was abandoned and the town moved over twenty miles north. After push from the gnomes of Clincherville, it was negotiated that "New" Clincherville would be left alone while selected families of the town would return to the original Clincherville to work on behalf of the rebranded Miskatonic University. Prime targets were humans and goblinkind of the continent, offering access to dark secrets, outer lore and spells for the right price and loyalty.

Miskatonic during the Gith Invasion & War:
The university was actually a secondary target of the Gith, but after the spectacular failure in Sharpspire multiple Rrakkmas teleported inside newer portions of the university to make quick work of mind flayer thralls acting as students as well as slaying/subduing the staff and pupils in order to establish a foothold for the taking of loot and knowledge. Despite regular divinations the attack was not forseen by the Drow and the price was paid in blood as the Gith slaughtered the student body and the lead Rrakkma sped to the chambers of matron mother. Fortunately for the matron and those taking refuge with her, they had a direct passage to the original Falumisk ruins (now hallowed ground dedicated to Lolth) and the protecting wards and traps within. Though the Gith were right on their heels, the matron and her drow did reach the sanctuary of the ruins and activated every ward of protection and deadly trap available to them. To the credit of the Gith, they came close to breaching the ruins, but were forced to relent after learning that despite the raising of Nyx, the orcs had not been scattered. In the end the Rrakkmas simply left. After regrouping, the remaining Lolthian Drow planned and waited for an opportunity to gain allies of great power, and they found the first in Chauntless. When King Hallowythe received the first intel report from Ahegthna, he was in shock that a loose army of wood elves only backed by tribes of wild elves was pushing against the scattered orcish forces. The high elves were on defense and retreating from the continent. Was it safe to assume that the more organized high elves had an offensive plan after observing their woodland cousins engage the Gith? The king was unsure, and that was the exact time that a group of Miskatonic Drow emissaries approched the gates of Sharpspire seeking to meet and confer while waving the white flag of peace.

What happened next was unprecedented. The King took an audience with the emissaries, and Lothian Drow wasted no time in presenting a strategy in dealing with what they called a Grage ending invasion. They wanted the King of Chauntless to host representatives from the Drow majority that worshipped the twin deities of Vulkoor/Arasta and sway them to unite both dark elf factions under one banner that would reinforce the military might of the Chauntlessian Empire for total war with the Gith. If this did not happen, the emissaries warned that due to the extent of the Illithid problem the Gith would not merely stop with raiding and slave taking - they would reduce Grage to a world of permanent struggle and savagery. The rest of the story is now recent history.

Miskatonic during the Spellplague:
After the deaths and damage to the university itself (the eldritch wards in the original ruins held) from the inital plague entrance passed, interested parties coming to Miskatonic U actually picked up. Using new students for repair and pledges from organizations of note to gather intel, the Matron Mother sent over half of her surviving senior spellcasters to gain information from surface mages and organizations about the nature of the plague and the damage it had done. These traveling "teachers" from the university were invited to join with the Mage Magistratum to discover which spells proved dangerous and/or unreliable and how to fix them. Unfortunately for the university, the Magistratum found the Miskatonic casters to be more interested in hoarding knowledge than sharing it and were ejected from the Mage Magistratum before it concluded it's studies and shut down.

Admission to enter Miskatonic today:
As it is said, those who seek knowledge may deliver up more value to those providing it, than any knowledge gained. This is the case for the students of Miskatonic, for those who want to learn more than what many other magic knowledge institutions offer will get much more than gold and magic items. Miskatonic University today still retains it's same goals and methods to serve the Lolthian Drow in regaining control of the entire Drow population on Grage. The teaching methods, practices and classes have changed over the decades, but the goal of recruitment and indoctrination remains mainly intact, with the only recent significant change being bringing high elves into the fold.

Regarding the curriculum, the standard entry level set of classes would include several cantrip courses (assuming that the DM allows cantrip swapping) and different spell school classes of first and second level which are divided primarily (but not always) by spellcaster class. Tutelage includes older incantations (Mordant Arcana) that were altered by the spellplague, but not Outer Mythos Arcana unique to the university. Entry level admission prices can vary, depending on the race, creed and country since these Lolthian Drow are seeking agents and information to further Lolth's agenda. So a human from Chauntless may have to pay 200 gold for six months of schooling, while a Grung from the Fatherlands may be admitted for the same term at a token fee of 15 gold. Schooling at this point is determined by the DM. The D&D Strixhaven book gives a somewhat basic structure of a university of magic Harry Potter style, but a large amount of 3rd party books/PDFs that provide an excellent campaign infrastructure.
  • Non Lolthian Drow Elves - No admittance unless a full conversion to the adoration of Lolth with magical verification.
  • High Elves - Most High Elves returning to Grage endure being called cowards, but some have such resentment they seek an outlet. The servants of Lolth gladly provide that outlet via forbidden knowledge at the university.
  • Shadar Kai Elves - Unless the elf has sworn allegience in blood to Lolth, admittance will not be given.
  • Wood/Wild/Eladrin Elves - Wood and wild elves are considered on a case by case basis. Eladrin are far too connected to the Fey for consideration.
  • Dwarves (all variants) - Only the most evil and loathsome of Dwarves would be up for consideration.
  • Aasimar - Half Angels of all types have been barred from admittance to the university including the Fallen.
  • Gnomes (all variants) - In most cases, gnomes are too annoying to be taught anything by the university.
  • Tritons /Locathah - None have applied nor would gain admittance.
  • Loxodons - None have applied, nor have the staff considered seeking any out for study and admission.
  • Humans (all variants) - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Miskatonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Tiefling - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Miskatonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange IF no existing connection in found between the tieflin and it's fiendish parent.
  • Tabaxi/Leonin - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Skinwalkers/Centaurs/Satyrs - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Goblins - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Golems - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Minotaurs - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Orcs/Half Orcs (all variants) - None have yet applied, and the Orcs & Half Orcs shun the Drow due to alliances with the Wood Elves.
  • Bugbears - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Grung - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Hobgoblins - Cantrips, Spell levels 1 through 5 and Misktonic Initiate/Mascot Feats for the standard exchange.
  • Lizard-Folk - Though the Drow have no particular issue in accepting Lizard Folk for tutelage, they have never had any apply.
  • Yuan-ti - As these snake-folk are a post Gith invasion intruder race, they are currently not allowed admittance to Miskatonic University.
  • Other Races - The servants of Lolth will be exceptionally wary, but also interested in any humanoid race not native to Grage. Admittance will be granted on the condition the new student accepts a Drow guidance counselor appointed by the Matron Mother.
  • Undead & Possessed - Both are accepted on a case by case basis.
Other students (as well as some staff) are oni, tasloi, ogre magi, fiends and the occasional gnoll shaman.

Playing with Eldritch Fire:
Despite using the secrets of the Miskatonic Ruins for her own schemmes, Lolth is not foolish. She, herself has personally observed the ancient texts as well as each rune carved into every ruined wall (through the safety of the eyes of the Matron Mother), and has been extremely careful in what information and rituals/spells are released even to her loyal Drow.

University Exclusive Feats:
Yep! The two feats below are from the Strixhaven Sourcebook. Unless noted, only the names of the feats and mascots have been changed with a more Lovecraftian bent:

Miskatonic Initiate: You have studied some magical theory and have learned a few spells associated with Miskatonic University. Choose one of Strixhaven's colleges: Lorehold, Prismari, Quandrix, Silverquill, or Witherbloom. You learn two cantrips and one 1st-level spell based on the college you choose, as specified in the Strixhaven Spells table. You can cast the chosen 1st-level spell without a spell slot, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast the spell using any spell slots you have. Your spellcasting ability for this feat's spells is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma (choose when you select this feat).

The Drow have changed the original names of the ancient orders to stop student s (and others) from researching further eldritch secrets in other places in the world. The drow names (translated to common below) were applied to these as a veiled insult to the very students they teach.

Miskatonic Name Strixhaven Name Cantrip Choices 1st-Level Spell Link Link
Avarice Lorehold Light, Sacred Flame, Thaumaturgy From Cleric or Wizard spell lists. 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Hubris Prismari Fire Bolt, Prestidigitation, Ray of Frost From Bard or Sorcerer spell lists 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Callous Quandrix Druidcraft, Guidance, Mage Hand From Druid or Wizard spell lists 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Animus Silverquill Sacred Flame, Thaumaturgy or Vicious Mockery From Bard or Cleric spell lists 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Fracas Witherbloom Chill Touch, Druidcraft, Spare the Dying From Druid or Wizard spell lists 3rd Party D&D Beyond

Miskatonic Mascot: Prerequisites: 4th level, Miskatonic Initiate (Strixhaven) feat You have learned how to summon a Miskatonic mascot to assist you, granting you these benefits: You can cast the find familiar spell as a ritual. Your familiar can take the form of the mascot associated with the college you chose for the Strixhaven Initiate feat: Pup of Tindalos (Avarice), an art Ember Vampire (Hubris), a Nightgaunt (Callous), a Cat of Ulthar (Animus), or a Gnoph-Keh Hatchling (Fracas). When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can forgo one attack to allow your mascot familiar to make one attack of its own with its reaction. If your mascot familiar is within 60 feet of you, you can teleport as an action, swapping places with the familiar. If your destination space is too small for you to occupy, the teleportation fails and is wasted. Once you teleport in this way, you can't do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a spell slot of 2nd level or higher to do it again.

Miskatonic Name Strixhaven Name Exotic Training & Use Link Link
Nightgaunt Quandrix /Callous Fractal Mascot 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Ember Vampire Prismari / Hubris Art Elemental Mascot 3rd Pary D&D Beyond
Gnoph-Keh Hatchling Witherbloom / Fracas Pest Mascot 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Cat of Ulthar Silverquill / Animus Inkling Mascot 3rd Party D&D Beyond
Pup of Tindalos Lorehold / Avarice Spirit Statue Mascot 3rd Party D&D Beyond

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