Ley of the Land
Wizards of the Coast
This article is a WotC ArticleWizards of the Coast, Inc.
Wizards of the Coast
Note that at the time of publishing this was 2nd edition, thus all stats are still in 2nd Edition format
Ley lines — conduits of magic energy (mebhaighl) that wizards use in casting powerful spells — seem to be a primary subject of debate right now. Who would have thought the deceptively simple words “between two provinces” and "1 GB per ley line” could inspire so much dissent over their meaning?
Yet they have. You know from experience that the best way to handle rules questions is to decide on a house interpretation that seems reasonable to the DM and players in your individual campaign. But if you’d like a little guidance from the BIRTHRIGHT team, the three of us have ironed out a favorite system for forging and maintaining ley lines in Cerilia.
Leying a Foundation
First, a quick overview of magic, ley lines, and their function in a BIRTHRIGHT game. In addition to all the spells available in the Player’s Handbook (and other sources), wizard regents are allowed to cast realm spells — powerful magic available only to wizards who can tap and control the magical energies of the land. When a wizard wishes to cast such a spell away from her base of operations, however, she needs to create a ley line to channel magic from her home turf to the place where she needs it.
As a refresher, recall that mebhaighl (meh-VALE) may be tapped and concentrated through a holding known as a source. Wizards control sources and may increase or decrease them in the same manner as guilds or temples. Their level (shown in parentheses) indicates their strength.
Quoting from the BIRTHRIGHT Rulebook: Wizards may use a “forge ley line” action to create a magical link between two provinces. Many realm spells require a minimum source level in the province to be affected, but a ley line acts as a magical conduit, allowing the wizard to treat the weaker province as if it had the Source level of a higher connected province for purposes of casting realm spells. For example, consider a wizard who controls a source (7) in one province, and a source (1) in another. The source (1) is too weak for most realm spells, but by forging a ley line between the two, he can cast any realm spell in the province with the source (1).
Ley lines cost 1 RP and 1 GB per province crossed; thus, linking to a province three moves away costs 3 RP and 3 GB. Ley lines can be forged from other ley lines the wizard controls; it is possible to save effort by creating local networks stemming from one major ley line. The construction of a ley line can be opposed or supported by any wizard with a source holding in any province the ley line crosses.
Just as ley lines can be forged, they can also be sundered. The boxed set didn’t have room to cover such issues, but the upcoming Book of Magecraft (coming in March) will explain in detail how to destroy, disrupt, or otherwise screw up someone else’s ley lines — and this issue’s “Magic of Kings” article provides some examples of such realm spells. For now, it’s important to know only that ley lines can be tampered with, and interference from rivals is a possibility your wizard PC should consider when forging ley lines.
To illustrate the ley line rules, we’ve created three kingdoms: Aldiss, Boran, and Castledowns (see diagram #1). Three wizards — Artorus, Briana, and Clio — control the magical sources of these domains. Artorus, the court wizard of Aldiss, controls sources in Aeluin, Armor, Abbot Hill, Brost, Bender’s Ford, and Corina — note that the later three sources lie in provinces of rival kingdoms. Briana, the Mage-Queen of Boran, controls sources in Brost, Bender’s Ford, and Connor (a province of Castledowns). Clio, the court wizard of Castledowns, controls sources in Carp, Connor, and Cardian.
Notice that while Artorus has lots of mebhaighl at his disposal, it’s all spread out and not very useful to him as it stands now. He can cast realm spells requiring a source (1) in Aeluin and Armor, and spells requiring up to a source (4) in Abbot Hill, but he has to travel onto foreign soil to tap his source (5) or even his source (2).
So what can Artorus do? Well, he can forge a couple of ley lines. He can use his spread-out sources to create a network of energy throughout the land, drawing his influence closer to home and tighter around the three domains in the region.
Of course, Briana and Clio will try to stop him — but what would life be without a few challenges?
The Core System
This rule follows the strictest interpretation of the “Forge Ley Line” domain action. As a result, players of wizard regents might find this method too strict (two optional rules are provided for players who want a looser system). However, this system has the advantages of simple bookkeeping and clear guidelines. “Wizards may use this action [forge ley line] to create a magical link between two provinces.” That’s what the rules say, and that’s what you can do using this method. A ley line links one higher-level source to one province with a lower-level source or to a province with no source at all. As a result, the wizard can cast realm spells that require the higher-level source in two provinces: the province in which the source is located, and the province where the ley line terminates.
Drawing the Ley Line
Forging a ley line costs the wizard 1 Regency Point and 1 Gold Bar per province crossed, not including the province in which the source is located. Therefore, a ley line between neighboring provinces, such as Abbot Hill and Absal, costs Artorus 1 RP and 1 GB; a line between Aeluin and Abbot Hill (crossing Apex) costs 2 RP and 2 GB.
This cost, however, leads to a problem: Players may try to optimize their ley lines by manipulating the number of provinces they pass through. For example, if Clio wanted to forge a ley line between Carp and Cardian, the line could pass through as many as five provinces (see diagram 1, pink line) or three (purple line), depending on how she draws it. To minimize this problem, ley lines must be drawn from the approximate center of the source province straight to the approximate center of the destination province. In Clio’s case, the purple line is the correct one.
In this example, drawing from center to center saves Clio 2 RP and 2 GB. However, a straight line won’t always work to the wizard’s advantage. Sometimes it may be more expensive to draw a straight line from center to center — not to mention more dangerous, if the line passes through enemy territory.
If a wizard regent wants to bend his ley lines — whether for strategic, economic, or aesthetic reasons — he can. But the extra concentration and materials involved cost him an additional 1 RP and 1 GB for the ley line’s forging. That’s not 1 RP and 1 GB per bend, just per ley line.
In diagram 1, Artorus sees the wisdom in this course of action. He wants to tap his big source (5) in Corina while sightseeing in Broken Stand. If he forges a straight ley line between Corina and Broken Stand, it passes through Connor, where both his enemies hold sources. Chances are, that ley line won’t last long. So he forges a bent ley line through Cold Fell instead (diagram 1, green line). He spends just 1 RP and 1 GB more (for a total of 3 RP and 3 GB), and creates a much more secure line in the process.
Connecting Ley Lines
Under the basic ley line rules, realm spells can be cast only in provinces where a source of the required strength exists or where a ley line from that source terminates. Therefore, wizards cannot cast realm spells in provinces through which a ley line merely passes. In diagram 1, Artorus can cast source (5) spells in Corina and Broken Stand using the green ley line, but not in Cold Fell. Why? The ley line is a magical conduit — like a power line. In order for it to be tapped, there must be a terminus or a branch-off.
Of course, ley lines can be drawn from a province to an existing ley line. For example, Artorus can forge a separate ley line from Cold Fell to the ley line passing through Cold Fell (see diagram 1, blue line). The ley line is a minor “tap” and allows the casting of realm spells in the additional province.
Likewise, if Artorus wanted to extend his Corina/Broken Stand ley line to Bulle, he could do so by forging a ley line from the original (green) ley line to Bulle.
Ley Line Networks
Ley lines cost quite a bit (for a regency and gold-poor wizard) to set up. They don’t cost quite as much to maintain, but the price can add up quickly if the regent has lots of ley lines. Under the core system, ley line networks are strategically efficient, but maybe not very cost efficient.
A ley line network is a series of ley lines set up in successive domain turns that allows a wizard regent to tap sources in many different provinces. Viewed as a whole, diagram 1 illustrates a ley line network set up by Artorus (all but the pink and purple lines — those belong to Clio). The network consists of 11 ley lines, including the short “taps.” It was set up over many domain turns (a minimum of 11, unless Artorus had a wizard lieutenant helping him) and is quite extensive.
The network runs from Corina to Broken Stand, then extends to Absal and on to Apex. Artorus forged another ley line from Abbot Hill to Apex and then extended it to Aeluin. While this looks rather complex, it was for a good reason: Because all the ley lines converge in Apex, they share several sources. Anywhere along this network, Artorus can draw on the magical power of his sources in Corina, Abbot Hill, Aeluin, Armor, or Bender’s Ford. The Brost source is not connected to any ley line, so realm spells cast in that province by Artorus must require no higher than a source (1).
Severing Ley Lines
Even though details about severing ley lines will be discussed in the Book of Magecraft, results of that contingency should be addressed here. If a ley line is severed, the break continues in both directions until it reaches a terminus (the point where a line originally began or ended), where the break ends.
For example, let’s say Briana severs Artorus’s ley line in Bookley. Artorus suffers a setback — Briana has sundered his most critical ley line (the orange one, which connects his highest source to the Aldiss provinces). The whole ley line, from terminus to terminus (Broken Stand to Absal), evaporates. Any ley lines not connected to sources but connected to the severed ley line are also cut. So the entire orange section of the network, including the tap, disappears.
Note that the ley line between Absal and Apex still holds, even though neither province has a source. Since Artorus set up a ley line from Abbot Hill (and one from Aeluin) where there is a source into Apex, the Absal/Apex/Abbot Hill/Aeluin mini-network remains. Likewise, the connection between Armor, Carp, and Bender’s Ford still remains, because those lines were not dependent on the Corina source.
On the other side of the map, the Corina network is much smaller. The ley line still runs through Cold Fell and terminates in Broken Stand (where there is an extension to Bulle), but the ley line in Bookley is gone. Artorus must re-forge a connection if he wants to restore the power of his Corina source to the western network.
Option 1: Power-Up
Extending ley lines and creating lots of terminal points is a very good idea. Artorus was wise—when he lost the Corina/Absal connection, he still had his source (4) in Abbot Hill connected to all of his western holdings. If he runs a ley line between Bender’s Ford and neighboring Broken Stand, or restores the sundered section, he will be all linked up again.
But while it is harder to cripple a networked wizard by cutting just one ley line, lots of short ley lines add to the cost of maintenance. All ley lines, no matter how long or short, cost 1 RP to maintain, so Artorus was paying 11 RP per domain turn for his network; now he’s paying 9 RP.
The optional power-up rule allows DMs to make life easier on the poor, deprived wizard. Since wizards don’t usually collect as much RP or GB as other regents (emphasis on the “usually”), the DM might want to make maintaining ley lines optional — depending on whether the wizard regent wants to use, or thinks he might want to use — a ley line in a particular domain turn.
Wizards pay their ley line maintenance costs when everyone else is paying their GB for their provinces and courts. Since this stage of the domain turn arrives before the wizard regent casts spells, using the power-up option requires some planning. The wizard regent decides during the maintenance phase what ley lines he will activate for the entire three-month turn. Then he pays the maintenance costs for those ley lines and no others — but he can use only the ley lines that he has powered up.
With the orange section gone, Artorus’ network has been split in half. If Artorus is spending all his time out east trying to reunify his network, he might not want to dole out the full 9 RP it would take to maintain (power-up) all his ley lines. Since Artorus’ source (4) in Abbot Hill is connected to Apex, Absal, Armor, Carp, and Bender’s Ford, he might decide he doesn’t need the connection between Apex and Aeluin this turn. It isn’t likely, in his mind, that Briana or Clio will assault him magically in Aeluin, and he’s not going to tell them he hasn’t powered that connection. He saves 1 RP and temporarily excludes Aeluin from his network. He’d like to exclude Apex as well (it isn’t a border province and it doesn’t contribute a source to the network), but it is required as a connection to Absal and the east.
On the other side of the map, Artorus has only three remaining ley lines — Corina to Broken Stand, the tap to Cold Fell and the extension to Bulle. Since both of these terminus points lie in enemy territory, Artorus spends the 2 RP to keep both lines active. So, Artorus saved only 1 RP this turn, reducing his maintenance fee from 9 to 8 RP, but that’s one RP he might need later.
Less-strict planners with Artorus’ networks might save more RP if they desire. For example, if the player knows all the domain turn’s action will be in the east, he could shut down the entire western network and pay only 2 RP to keep the Corina/Broken Stand/Bulle network alive. He can still cast realm spells in the west — as long as he is in the sources’ provinces — but he can’t use the western network. That would save him 6 RP.
However, the power-up rule has two inherent drawbacks that ensure game balance. First, at the end of every domain turn, the wizard regent must roll 1d10 for every inactive ley line. On a roll of 1, the ley line did not receive enough residual energy to survive the turn. It simply dissipates. This loss affects the network just as severing a line would. So if Artorus did not maintain the entire western network, and the player rolled a 1 when checking for the Apex/Absal line, that connection would disappear, cutting Absal, Armor, Carp, and Bender’s Ford off from the Abbot Hill source. They would still have access to the source (2) in Bender’s Ford, but Artorus would lose a lot of flexibility — and that’s assuming the player doesn’t roll a 1 for any other lines on the western network.
The second drawback affects domain actions. An inactive ley line cannot have new lines connected to it. So, if Artorus left his western network inactive, he could not forge a ley line from Absal to Bookley, since Artorus does not have a source in either province. However, Artorus could forge a ley line from Broken Stand, through Bookley, and into Absal — and, next turn, he could reactivate his giant network, connecting all his ley lines once again to the source (5) in Corina.
Option 2: Forging Lines of Power
The core system is a simple and straight forward interpretation of the rules, but it’s also expensive: A comprehensive network of ley lines and taps costs a mint to set up and sucks down a horde of RP for maintenance during a time of national emergency. The forging lines option gives wizards more freedom, but it might be subject to abuses by aggressive players.
In some cases, however, a wizard needs a break. For example, in our weekly playtest sessions, Carrie is playing a wizardess with lots of source holdings but no land and no patronage by another regent. As a result, the wizardess doesn’t collect taxes or a salary, and due to a low bloodline score she doesn’t collect much regency, either. Basically, she’s broke.
Not only is she broke, but she’s also bored — it’s tedious to burn up domain turn after domain turn patiently forging ley lines while everyone else around the table raises armies, rouses rabble, and plots assassinations. It seems that Carrie’s wizardess may never use the cool spells she’s spending so much time preparing for. To help strapped wizards out, consider using the line forging option, which offers the simplicity of bookkeeping that makes the core system appealing, while allowing poor wizards more bang for their buck.
As already described, ley lines connect two provinces and any number of provinces can lie between the source province and the destination province. However, ley lines are more malleable under the line forging option. Think of a ley line as an open river of magical energy instead of a closed pipeline. Rivers collect water at a “source” and channel it to a destination; ley lines channel mebhaighl from the magical source to a destination province. And just as someone can draw water or go for a swim at any point along a river, wizards can access the magical energy flowing through a ley line from any province through which the line passes.
For example, if our wizard Artorus forged a ley line due north from Abbot Hill to Aeluin, he could draw on the magical power of his level 4 source in both of those provinces and in Apex, which lies between them. “Cool!” Artorus says. “I’m going to forge one ley line from my level 5 source in Corina through all the provinces of these three domains, so I can access its magic everywhere.” Can he do that?
Sure. Under this option, any line Artorus can draw on the map without lifting his pencil is considered one line, and it doesn’t matter whether the line is straight or curved or even circular — after all, rivers wind and bend all over the place. More importantly, he can start with a small line and add on to it later (like digging a canal) — it’s still just one line. If Artorus wants to forge the whole line at once, he may spend 16 GB and 16 RP in a single action to forge a ley line that runs through every province (see diagram 2, blue line). He spends just 1 RP per domain turn to maintain it.
Bargain shopping at its best? In the short term, yes, but the one-line-does-it-all plan has serious strategic weaknesses. While this optional rule allows Artorus to forge a powerful line quickly and with little maintenance cost, it creates a very vulnerable ley line. Briana or Clio need to sunder the line in only one place — anywhere along the line — and the whole thing collapses.
Sadder and wiser, our determined Artorus decides to try again. But this time he approaches his ley lines with caution and deliberation. Artorus forges a network of three ley lines, all beginning in Corina and terminating in his domain of Aldiss (diagram 2, pink, purple, and green lines). This network requires a total of three actions, costing 19 RP and 19 GB to forge, plus 3 RP per turn to maintain. However, the extra expense buys Artorus some security: Briana and Clio must sunder three separate ley lines to keep Artorus from using his source (5) in Aldiss.
The line forging option offers players several advantages: easy bookkeeping, low maintenance costs, and magical access in many provinces with minimal forging time. But for these very reasons, some DMs (and players of non-wizard characters) might think it makes life — and access to power — too easy for wizards. The DM will have to decide whether to use this optional rule based on his campaign.
Option 3: Artesian Wells
This option is based on three elements of the basic rules. First, maintenance costs for all ley lines are the same regardless of their length. Second, although the rule says a ley line connects two provinces, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are exclusive. Third, the rules state that a wizard can tap the most powerful province on the line. That said, let me explain the Artesian Well option.
The Artesian Well rule allows a wizard to wind a ley line around the countryside, spending as much gold and regency as he cares to. However, allowing a wizard to cast realm magic in every province crossed by his ley line may throw some campaigns out of balance. Thus, Artorus could run a line beginning in Abbot Hill and wrapping through Apex, Aleuin, Armor, Absal, Carp, Caidiff, Cardian, Corina, Cold Fell, Connor, Bender’s Ford, Broken Stand, Boatswain, Bulle, Bookley, and Brost (see diagram 3, green line). This ambitious action would cost 16 GB and 16 RP, and Artorus could tap the sources at the beginning and end of the lines; his source (4) in Abbott Hill could be used to cast magic in Brost, a source (1). If the source in Abbot Hill were reduced to 0, he could tap the source in Brost to cast realm magic in Abbot Hill.
With a ley line this long, Artorus would suffer terribly if his line were cut; the whole thing would disappear. Because of this risk, this option also allows a wizard to extend existing ley lines. This results in a new domain action: extend ley line. The cost is 1 RP and 1 GB per province crossed, just like forging. The wizard can add provinces to one end of a ley line, but will pay no additional maintenance costs for them; they become part of a single line, and the wizard can cast realm spells from the line’s new endpoint.
Let’s say that Artorus began his line in Abbot Hill, but stopped in Broken Stand. By extending his ley line to Brost (following the path described earlier), he could now cast in a total of three provinces, but he’ll have to pay maintenance costs for only one ley line. As a bonus, Broken Stand acts as a dam in the event the line is severed. If the line were cut, it would disappear only as far as Broken Stand, regardless of which side of the line were cut.
So, how is all this like an Artesian well? Once the line is forged, Artorus can create magical taps — in effect, he sinks a well to tap into his ley line, allowing him to cast realm spells in more provinces. This results in a new domain action: Establish Ley Spring. This action costs 1 GB plus 1 RP per spring, to a maximum of five springs per action. The springs may lie anywhere on an existing ley line. The wizard-regent incurs a maintenance cost of 1 RP for every 5 ley springs.
Artorus decides that he needs to cast spells in more provinces on his ley line. He uses a domain action to create ley springs and places them in Aleuin, Absal, Carp, Corina, and Cold Fell (see diagram 3, red line). The results are threefold. First, he can cast spells in these five provinces. Second, the springs act as dams to limit the damage if anyone cuts his ley lines (as described earlier for extended ley lines). He can now cast magic derived from his level 5 source in Corina (power from that source is now added to the line). Working from the extended ley line example (the red line on the diagram), Artorus can cast realm spells in eight provinces, and he pays 2 RP per domain turn to maintain this system.
Furthermore, the damage from any cut in Artorus’ line dead-ends at the closest taps or extensions on each side of the cut. Thus, if the evil wizard Briana cut the line in Bender’s Ford, the line between Broken Stand and Cold Fell would disappear, but the taps in those two provinces protect the lines beyond those points. Artorus would then be forced to maintain two ley lines at a cost of 1 RP each, plus an additional RP for the 5 springs he still maintains (a total of 3 RP). Later, he could use the extend ley line option to reconnect the two lines.
Ley Line Bookkeeping
Any player with a wizard regent character needs to track ley lines and taps carefully. This is most easily accomplished by laminating a map or slipping it into a plastic sheet protector and using dry-erase or water-erase markers. Different colors can be used to designate separate ley lines or extensions; springs and endpoints likewise by different colors or symbols (remember, under the Artesian option, you pay maintenance costs for springs, but not endpoints!). In any case, ley lines change during any campaign, so choose a method that allows for flexibility.