Will. Witchcraft. Counterculture. Chaos. Greetings once more, Outlander, for Part 4 of my series on D&D 5e Plot Hooks from the Western Esoteric and Occult traditions, how they shaped Dungeons & Dragons (particularly D&D 5e) over time, and how Dungeon Masters, worldbuilders, and D&D players can incorporate Occult themes. This week we arrive at the Modern and Postmodern Periods. Let’s learn about Thelema, Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism, Wicca, New Age Spirituality, and Chaos Magick!
Reminder: don’t forget to click on the “+” sign to expand the Plot Hooks sections.
Tip: monsters and lore from the 5e Monster Manual bear a “1”, from Volo’s Guide to Monsters bear a “2”, and from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes bear a “3”.
PART ONE: Therianthropy, the Old Norse Magickal Tradition, Apotropaic Magick, Hermeticism, Alchemy.
PART TWO: Gnosticism, Thaumaturgy, Kabbalah, Cunning Folk, Theosophy.
PART THREE: Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Ceremonial Magick, Luciferianism, Anthroposophy.
PART FOUR: Thelema, Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism, Wicca, New Age Spirituality, Chaos Magick.
Let’s take a look!
#1. THELEMA: WIZARDRY OF WILL
SOURCES: Crowley’s The Book of the Law.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: Thelema, founded by Aleister Crowley, emphasizes “True Will” and relation to one’s Higher Self. These two beliefs refer to following one’s Calling, not simply carnal pursuits. An initiate of Hermetics, supposed Freemason, and self-proclaimed “Prophet of the New Aeon“, Crowley chronicled the beliefs of Thelema in The Book of the Law. Thelema promotes two core tenets: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, and “Love is the law, love under Will”.
Like many other Occult tendencies, Thelemites believe in a “Body of Light“, an Astral Body to develop in tandem with one’s physical form. Thelema also incorporates Ancient Egyptian deities and symbolism, including such figures as Aiwass (the Holy Guardian Angel), as well as Nuit (Our Lady of the Stars), Hadit (the Solar God), and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (the Crowned and Conquering Child).
Crowley founded two organizations to advance his doctrine: the strangely-named “A:.A:.”, and “Ordo Templi Orientis”. Thelema features many methods of mysticism and mastering oneself. Like Freemasonry and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, it uses Esoteric instruction, initiation, and ritualism, adding Ceremonial Magick and “sex magick”. Thelema emphasizes subjectivity but results, transmission but skepticism. This culminates in the drive toward finding one’s own protective daimon, or, “Holy Guardian Angel“, to commune with.
Thelema’s ritualism includes the full gamut of purifying oneself, one’s implements, and one’s location, to devoting oneself toward or calling forth or sympathizing with a deity. Conjuring and transmuting, consecrating and divining. With the help of one’s Holy Guardian Angel, one can purportedly cross “the Abyss“, and overcome the beguiling figure of Choronzon to dissolve one’s ego into the real, ideal world, a sort of Promised Land of Enlightenment and Oneness. A chosen few can become “Magus“, essentially messiahs, with the final level being “Ipsissimus“, a type of self-deification.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock aesthetics.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: Thelema invokes divine forces, from the smaller level of the personal protector to the greater level of deities, a scale that offers significant flexibility for you as a DM and worldbuilder. As Thelema relies on borrowed religious symbolism, you can use the archetypes to weave it into an existing fantasy pantheon, making it very accessible. If you want to get more obscure, you can use the Astral forms aspects and build out plot structures around Thelema’s “Abyss“. And the workings of prophets and self-deification can instigate tremendous Plot Incitement.
For players, themes of a Calling fit with 5e’s focus on Paths, allowing them to work with DM’s to bake plot into the class development. Likewise, Thelema’s simple code could work for a Paladin Oath for players. Not just that, but Thelema can also inform Wizard, Warlock, and Cleric ritualism too.
1. Monstrous Magnetism. The powerful Sorceress Nemydina has declared herself the Prophet of Infinite Revelation, and her magnificent powers have drawn hundreds to her sanctuary for tutelage, where she teaches students to stand against their worst fears. But the party discovers an anonymous note indicating that an abominable Balhannoth3 resides deep beneath the sanctuary, magnifying the pupils’ desires and yearnings as it lays in its lair, feeding off their fears. Coincidence, or conspiracy? Will the party confront Nemydina, and clear the aberration’s cave?
2. Weaseling Worm. The party hears tell that the secretive cult Twilight Requiem has a hidden heart most foul: the innermost diviner is actually a Neogi Master2 slaver who has made a Pact with the Goddess of the Underworld to sell souls. Now it makes sense why no adept has yet completed the aristocratic spider-worm’s final test of crossing the Threshold, why so many fall into the Depths, become Empty. It was all a ruse. Can the party find a way to break its charm?
3. Overheard Oath. The party enters the temple just as the Seven Swords Magi places her Gnomish blade delicately upon the knight’s shoulder. As she completes the precise motions the knight swears the Oath of True Will, becoming a proper Paladin. The Magi looks up at the party, scowling: “Normally only Initiates hear these sacred words. Outsiders, make yourselves useful. Bring me the rare spell materials on this list and you shall find yourselves in my favor, perhaps enough to receive Wisdom.“
4. Food For Thought. The party watches the Ritual of Dissolution nervously. The Magus trembles, sinking deeper into his trance. This time he will do it, he will comprehend the Void, dissolve his ego, and come back Transcended. As he approaches the Void Barrier, his vacant eyes shimmer with the visage of the Corona-Sun Ferryman during the Bargaining phase. Blood begins to trickle from his ears. For a very brief moment, the party witnesses in the reflections in the Magus’ eyes what resembles an Intellect Devourer1 leashed to an Ulitharid2, scooping out his cranium. His eyes widen, pupils like the Void itself. He shakes, and awakens. Whoever has returned, it is likely no longer the Magus…
5. Halfling’s Helper. The Halfling Occultist reassures the party that she will survive the arrow protruding from her gut, and beckons them further down the hallway. As they step deeper into the complex, away from the light outside, they can make out the faint outline of a Blink Dog1 following closely behind her heels. With each of its steps, a shimmer grows around the wound. What is the nature of this Guardian Spirit?
#2. RECONSTRUCTIONIST NEO-PAGANISM: RECLAMATION & REVIVAL
SOURCES: Dievturi, Druidry, Druwi, Heathenism, Hetanism, Hellenismos, Rodnovery, Romuva, Suomenusko, and Zalmoxianism, plus Caucasian, Guanche, Hungarian, Roman, and Uralic Neopaganism.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: Western Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism includes many diverse tendencies that all aim at the reclamation, reconstruction, and revival of older folk religions, including polytheist, pantheist, henotheist, or animist traditions. It means forming festivals and fellowships. Recovering traditional mythology, motifs, and morality. Creating continuity of pastoral, agrarian, and urban rituals. This can include nature worship and ancestor worship spirituality practices, and mythical cosmology.
Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism may involve rites of birth or passage, wedding or burial. It may involve altars, shrines, and temples. Restoring calendars and holidays, and spiritual leadership, through Neoshamanism. Reconstructionists often focus on cultural preservation of traditional language, as well as song and dance, arts and crafts, music and martial arts. This can bear an ethnic nationalist component, but it doesn’t always. The different cultures each hold their own unique features.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: the Druid class.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: For you as a DM and worldbuilder, blending in Reconstructionist Neo-Paganism as a theme adds a layer of depth to cultures, particularly for “Monster Cultures”, in post-apocalyptic settings, and with post-Empire diasporas. Earth-based spirituality practices for Monster Cultures help define them beyond mere animals, and certain humanoid species like Duergar, Gnolls, and Kuo-Toa could prove interesting starting points to develop themes of spiritual recovery. Post-apocalyptic settings offer a great rationale for Revivalist Plots. Likewise for Humans, Elves, Dwarves, or Halflings in a diaspora after being subjugated to an Empire’s religious system.
Tensions between the new and old in reconstruction shape themes of progression versus traditionalism to draw upon and develop factions around. If you want to take all this even deeper, build up the yearning on the one hand, and a scarcity of means of information on the other. Have the Plot Incitement come from things like a long missing relic or tome or evidence showing what the Lost Ways really looked like to a people who have known nothing but loss. Players can work this into character design as well. Perhaps this searching marks the very reason they took up the adventuring life at all?
1. Rebel Recovery. The Gnolls1 have finally freed themselves from their rampaging god, Yeenoghu3, the Beast of Butchery. Once the truth of Yeenoghu not having created them spread, the possibility of tempering their bloodlust brought an unprecedented hope. The monstrous hyenas rebelled, rallying to recover their true origins and destiny. An envoy has come to the party directing them toward the Library of Kanok, where the oldest records of Gnoll culture and hyena lore reside. But the Horned King sends his Armanite3 herds chasing across the plane to recruit the Gnolls. If the party can bring their history back first, perhaps they will not fall to another tyrant’s grasp. In the distance: the sounds of a stampede…
2. Cultural Chronicle. The party has recovered a Scrolltube washed up on the shore, labeled as the True and Original Chronicle of Duergar Pre-History, detailing the Duergar’s Dwarven traditions before the Illithids1 enslaved them. Their minds shattered, their heritage lost, and their lineage betrayed, the desperate Gray Dwarves scrape out survival amongst the Underdark depths, with no help from their fellow Dwarves and no cultural guidance beyond force of will and arms. Upon closer inspection, the Scrolltube has liquified brain matter as a suspension and preservation medium for the scroll, indicating its authenticity. Will the party help the Duergar reclaim their ancestry, sell the scroll, or avoid risking the Mind Flayers’1 wrath?
3. Riddle of Reclamation. As the party treks up the mountainside they encounter a Stone Giant Dreamwalker2, a huge and wandering figure clad in all manner of baubles and bangles. About 40 paces away, the Dream Dweller bellows about her hallucinatory voyage to uncover the truth from the Riddle of Dewy Stones. Somehow the puzzle shall reveal the lost secrets of the shamanic transformation ritual that allowed a Storm Giant Quintessent2 to transform into a storm vortex. Thunder sounds in the distance, and the Dreamwalker invites the party to camp in her cave and ponder the quandary…
4. Mischief Brew. The party hears mention that those crafty Kobolds1 have finally snuck the Kobold Saga Relics away from their Hobgoblin1 bosses and run off to the Wet Warrens to rebuild their culture, erecting altars to the Lost God Kurtulmak. Rumor has it the Old Time Ways prove no less cruel however, as the Kobold clan has begun gang ambushes to capture Halflings, whose flesh sacrifice they ferment in the murky waters to amass a suitable form for Kurtulmak. Down in the sewers, the party hears a bubbling sound, and giggles…
5. Pudding Puppeteer. The party has tracked the Centaur1 nomad Llewist Sodhoof to near the cave’s mouth. As the last surviving Loreteller for his tribe, their oral legacy lives with him alone. Unfortunately, as the party arrives at the cave mouth, they notice a disgusting jelly caking its walls. Just a bit deeper in, the party spots the unthinkable: a hideous Elder Oblex3 — a Memory Eater ooze — extends its sickening tethers to perfect copies of all the missing Sodhoof Centaur children, marionetting them nauseatingly in front of the Loreteller and reeling them deeper into the cave. The sobbing Centaur presses forward, captivated by the nightmare show before him. The party must act fast, before the monstrosity consumes the last memories of a people…
#3. WICCA: WITCHCRAFT & WHEEL
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: Wicca mainly includes Gardnerian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, and related Western Mother Goddess beliefs, largely syncretic and eclectic tendencies based on self-spirituality or covens. Primary figures include the Moon Goddess or Triple Mother Goddess (Maiden, Mother, and Crone), along with the male Horned God, responsible for virility and the Wild Hunt, folklore of a spectral hunting pursuit. Dianic Wicca, in contrast, exclusively honors Goddesses and promotes feminist spirituality, but encourages men to form their own parallel Mystery Traditions. Wiccan motifs can include the chalice and the dagger, the “Five Elements” pentacle and elemental Tree of Life, as well as “Holly King” and “Oak King” folklore, a cyclical seasonal battle between figures of light and dark. The Holly and Oak King may reflect rival aspects of the Horned God, these two combining with the Triple Mother Goddess to form the five-part pentacle.
Beyond that, Wiccans practice holiday rituals through an eight-part “Wheel of the Year“, covering solstices and equinoxes and the midpoints between them. These holidays draw upon older traditions of fertility and harvest, progressing through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth, and often incorporating ancestor offerings. Much of Wiccan aesthetics and ritual implements draw from traditional witchcraft lore: candles and cauldrons, crystals and cups. Spirituality practices may involve elements, familiars, spirits, or deities. Even spellbooks. Their morality focuses on the Wiccan Rede, a Golden Rule maxim similar to Aleister Crowley’s Law: “An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.” Some also practice the Rule of Three, a belief that the positive and negative energies a person sends out to the world return threefold in kind.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: the Druid class; Paladin Oath of Ancients; Familiars & Find Familiar; Warlock’s Book of Shadows.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: Wicca has many motifs to work with for you as a DM and worldbuilder. An aesthetic focus on cycles lends itself to complex Land Magic systems dealing with seasons and elements. Through drawing upon Wiccan ritual implements and holidays, you can construct detailed cultural spiritualities that have more fullness than vague “witchcraft” tropes. Exposition through holidays allows you to avoid just dumping sheets of lore on a passive audience, and facilitates interaction. Conveniently, folklore dealing with such seasonal archetypes as the Holly King and Oak King combines well with larger pantheons without having to change those significantly. Also consider how the objective existence of magic mixes with subsistence in your world, and peoples’ relation to it. Perhaps witch rituals include blessing crops and livestock.
For players, codes like the Wiccan Rede and Rule of Three provide simple frameworks for Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Wizard, or Warlock characters to practice as Ideals. The Horned God may fit Rangers, and that or the Triple Mother Goddess could fit a Paladin Oath of Ancients. Likewise, Wiccan themes with Familiars, as well as Goddess worship, can extend roleplaying opportunities already built into D&D 5e. I would encourage you to not oversimplify Wicca’s Goddesses and God however, use the full richness of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone archetypes, the Holly and Oak Kings, rather than just generic fertility figures. For Plot Incitement, arcs from Witch Hunts, witches winning out against suppression, or a post-Witch Hunt recovery all allow for a good deal of drama that players have an opportunity to influence the outcomes of.
1. Eclipse Exploration. The party has traveled to a great green grove on the night of the eclipse, to meet with the Sprites1 and Pixies1 the trusted Starlight Coven has networked with. While everyone circles the Ritual Receptacle, the Sprites mutter under their breath at the Pixies tossing about Faerie Dust. But this time, the powder does serve an important purpose. As the final sliver of light departs, the Dust and Receptacle glow, forming an arrow shape pointing north. Toward the Cave of Ruin. This better not be another Pixie prank…
2. Tangling Thickets. The party has spent so many hours lost in the Wyrd Woods that they must construct a cautious camp. A Dryad1 soon emerges from a hollow stump nearby to warn the party of the Lost Sorrowsworn3 haunting the woodlands. It impales anything it can get its grotesque spikes on. She has disoriented the deformed horror for so long now, protecting her Maiden Daughter and Elder Mother so they can continue imbuing the trees with lifeforce. If the party can put down the Sorrowsworn, the Dryad Trio will allow the party’s exit. Alternatively, the Dryad offers the party Fairy Ring Blessings if they can stay for a spell and learn the Rite of Redwoods’ Embrace, which would release the disturbed soul permanently after they fell it. However, a less patient party may just press the Dryads holding them captive in these twisting thickets…
3. Weird Wellwater. The party has ventured to a nearby aquifer to help the Rosepetal Coven consecrate the new well meant to quench the thirsty attendees of the upcoming Rosehip Festival. As they arrive, a witch with a sour look on her face notifies the party that the worst has come to pass: the water has grown foul after a Rot Troll3 has fallen in, its necrotic energy polluting the Water Weird1 that nurtures the wellwater. The witches can muster cup and cauldron to cleanse the Weird, but they ask that the party extract and dispatch the Troll. Inside the well, they hear a gurgling snarl…
4. Cackling Cloth. The Autumn Harvest Celebration marks the high point of the year for many townsfolk, all the bonfires, bells, and brooms bringing action and excitement to an otherwise slow life. Around nightfall, as the party accompanies the witch growers in pouring bonemeal on the fields, the Scarecrows1 all burst to life, cackling maniacally as they claw about. Behind these sackcloth sentinels, a Night Hag1 runs off, vanishing into a haze. Has she cursed the bonemeal? The party must act quickly!
5. Witch War. The Night Witch Circle has struck back against the Inquisitors who hunt and burn them, the witches’ enchanted brooms allowing for fast hit-and-run ambushes and nightly sabotage raids against the Empire. The party hears rumor they may even soon come to rescue the Horned Knights locked away in the royal dungeon. Will the party join the jailbreak, sit aside, or tip off the Inquisitors?
#4. NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY: ALTERNATIVE ADMIXTURE
SOURCES: Emanuel Swedenborg; Mesmer’s Theory and Applications of Animal Magnetism; The New Age magazine; Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy; Dowling’s The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: New Age Spirituality refers to a modern collection of decentralized and eclectic spirituality practices rooted in earlier Western Esotericism, Millenarianism, and a distrust of organized religion. Its influences include Spiritualism, New Thought, hippie counterculture, and UFO religions or “Ancient Astronauts” theory. New Age emphasizes social change, spirit contact, and individualism. Its loose concept of divinity can include universalistic Consciousness, “Oneness“, “Infinite Spirit“. Also “Energy” and “lifeforce“, and “love“. Some common beliefs include cosmic unity, channeling spirit entities, and True Selves. It can also imply self-growth through Guardian Angels.
As a Millenarian movement, New Age speaks of “Indigo Children“, independent, empathic, intuiting children with supernatural or paranormal powers. They can usher in the coming “Age of Aquarius“, an astrological prediction of ascendant idealism. New Agers often believe in psychic abilities like clairvoyance or mediumship or fortune-telling, sometimes based on karma and past lives. Key words include: “Green“, “Holistic“, “Alternative“, and “Spiritual“, with a tension between simple living and sustainability, versus consumerism.
Adherents frequently appropriate other cultural and spiritual practices, including yoga and Qi Gong, ayahuasca and ayurveda, Feng Shui and Tai Chi, smudging and dreamcatchers. New Age places a high value on a panoply of “alternative medicines” often disparaged as quackery. This can include such practices as acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofeedback, craniosacral massage, chiropractic, chromotherapy, crystal healing, homeopathy, iridology, and reiki.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: D&D 5e’s Clairvoyance spell; possibly Psionics.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: You as a DM and worldbuilder have a lot to work with in New Age. To start, Millenarianism and Counterculture and Indigo Children all offer great foundations for Plot Incitement as they build conflict or change, forcing people to take a side and take action. Throw in some extra Ancient Astronauts type tropes with that if you want a great Mystery Setting. (X-Files, anyone?) Factional conflicts around the monetization of spiritual ingredients and relics can also set up tensions to grapple with.
On a more intermediary level, you can you can still work with themes of psychic powers, cosmic travel, and contacting spirits in a less world-changing but still substantive way. Mystical powers, places, beings. Not only that, but you can also introduce phenomena that historically blurred lines between science and magic, such as magnetism, or hypnosis. But if you want to incorporate New Age themes even more lightly, what often amounts to generic buzzwords in New Age offers some flexibility, in that you can usually blend in some cosmic “lifeforce“, “love“, or “consciousness” without having to change your setting much.
For players, the diverse alternative healing practices in New Age can offer an opportunity for flavoring their magical healing spells, things like crystal healing, or reiki. And maybe your inner Indigo comes out too.
1. Substantial Stash. A Millenarian order of Clerics and Sorcerers called New Way has come into conflict with the Royal Paladins. Not just their bohemian beliefs, but also their distribution of hallucinogenic entheogens has gained them notoriety. While walking, a party member stumbles, dislodging a cobblestone. It seems to reveal a stash of the substance. Will the party return it, turn it in, or keep it for their own purposes?
2. Crystalline Construct. The eccentric Dwarven Seer shakes with anticipation as she reveals the impressive crystalline statue of a Giant to the party, her floating Ioun Stones dancing around her head. She chants some Elvish and Gnomish phrases, bangs an Orcish war gong with a hammer, then plugs the Gemstone of Conscious Light into the receiver in the statue’s chest. The magical crystalline Stone Golem1 activates, and time begins to slow down around the party. In slow motion they witness the Seer’s Ioun Stones pulse, vibrate, then burst, as she falls to the ground, unconscious. Now what?
3. Independence Day. The day the Skyshatter Prophecy foretold has come, when the sky would split open, and a new lineage would arrive from beyond the stars to build a New Aeon. The party stands with the dense crowd, waiting in anticipation and worry. A portal appears, pouring out Githyanki1 marauders. Their astral brigs and skiffs head toward the awestruck masses. Far above, the party spies a Young Red Dragon1, towing the invasion force’s Mothership. All hope rests on this ship’s downfall. Can the party save the day?
4. Cerulean Child. The party meets with the nervous Elven peasant family in the treetop hut, where they introduce their kid, Nova. Some call Nova the Cerulean Child, because of her mysterious Psionic gifts and empathic temperament. The sleepless Nova shares a precognitive vision with the party, tracing out in arcane markings the first layer of the Ley Lines’ secret geometry. She suddenly pauses, asking the party, “Have you met my Imaginary Friend, Allip1?”
5. Disc Discovery. Sightings have appeared all over the countryside. Sporadic at first, but now, quite often. Rotating discs, gargantuan in size. Flying across the sky. Mesmerizingly. Lately, the local Halfling bumpkins have started a Disc Cult, making altars and offerings to the strange, swirling circles. Even the party has come to investigate the phenomenon. Perched high atop the old lighthouse, they finally spot one of these discs at just the right angle for but a moment: it looks like a Gnome pilot riding atop a Roc1, carrying a colossal, upside-down parasol beneath it, spinning as the Roc soars. How can the party prove such a thing to the Halfling country folk?
#5. CHAOS MAGICK: SIGILS & SERVITORS
REAL-WORLD ABOUT: Chaos Magick originated in the 1970’s as an eclectic, DIY, and anti-authoritarian spirituality. Its influences include Quantum Physics and Chaos Theory, as well as Discordianism, Robert Anton Wilson, and the Lovecraftian Cthulhu mythos revival. It describes itself as results-oriented but emphasizes subjectivity, willing to use techniques from any tendency — even in contradiction — so long as practitioners perceive them as working. Appropriately, it adopts author Michael Moorcock’s “Chaos Symbol” as its central icon.
Chaos Magick takes the concept of Will from Thelema, but removes notions of absolute truth, viewing all Occult symbols as essentially arbitrary and powered by belief. This flexible framework allows for diverse models of Esoterica to exist in parallel, including well-defined models using Spirit, Energy, Psychology, or Information terms to map meaning.
Furthermore, the Postmodern aspects of this tendency allow for a sort of “agnostic Gnosticism”, seeking the altered state of consciousness in Gnosis through meditative trance, ecstasy, or indifference. Practitioners believe that through overcoming the filter of “Kia“, the conscious mind, they can access “Chaos“, the generative force of the universe, which can augment one’s Will and Perception.
Chaos Magick also emphasizes rearrangement and synchronicity of symbolic patterns. For example, its practice of Sigilization creates personal stylized symbols associated with beliefs and intentions, which can purportedly progress into independent consciousness or group thoughtforms via spirit entities like Servitors, Egregores, and Godforms. Chaos Magick differs from many other Esoteric and Occult traditions in that when its proponents discuss Lucid Dreaming or Astral Projection, the Collective Unconscious or Spirit Conjuration, the Third-Eye or Soul Resonance, they emphasize experience more than obfuscation, accessibility more than hierarchy.
HOW IT IMPACTED D&D: the 5e spells Glyph of Warding and Symbol; the Conjuration School of Magic.
WHY ADD IT TO YOUR CAMPAIGN: Shaman, Magician, Psychonaut, and Hacker, all have their place in Chaos Magick. For you as a DM and worldbuilder, this offers a whole Esoteric and Occult buffet table; you can pretty much pick and choose whatever aspect you want. The temptation exists, but rather than that potential trainwreck, I would recommend isolating specific components. But if you do use multiple, Chaos Magick in-world can function as a bridge between contrasting spiritualities, interlinking them through Spirits, Sigils, Will, and Perception.
Notably, you can incorporate the Occult into a modern, industrial setting much more easily with Chaos Magick than most other traditions. Definitely solid for an Occult Detective Mystery, using Chaos Magick means to solve it. For Plot Incitement, you can literally use memes as spirits.
For the player, Chaos Magick offers aesthetic value for Sorcerers, Wizards, and Warlocks via Sigil geometry. You could also use it in Warlock Pacts. If you’ve ever wanted to play a Chaotic Occultist, now you have an outline. Maybe your DM will even let you get weird and make a Chaos Magick Monk!
1. Lovecraft Lich. The party approaches the crater, smoke from the comet strike still rising. Looking closer, it appears the wild speculation proved true. Some heart-shaped vehicle from the Heavens has crash landed. Out from the smoke marches a platoon of humanoid-hippos, heavily armed Giff3, with muskets and grenades at the ready. They ignore the party entirely, shouting. The Giff mount a formation, and take aim at the wreckage. The party gasps, witnessing an abhorrent Alhoon3 Illithilich demigod arise from the crater in a cloud of manifold Sigils. A hail of shots and blasts, all absorbed in the entropic abjuration of its Glyphs of Warding. The Illithilich sits down, meditating…
2. A Tad Overdone. As the party passes the playground they notice the children all sitting in a circle, chanting a creepy nursery rhyme as they pass around a tadpole, each taking a lick. “One Slaad, two Slaad, three Slaad, four. Feeding, breeding, spawning more! Red Slaad, Green Slaad, Blue Slaad, Gray. Think I even saw a Death today!” Horrifically, a pack of Red Slaad1 then burst out from their skin. Shocked, the party finally notices the geometric barrier chalked around these beings of utter chaos, trapping them. What next?
3. Wrong Number. After much fanfare, the Elven Spirit Hacker finally calls upon the Ancestors, initiating contact via the Egregore Operator. But something’s not quite right this time. The party witnesses his skin begin to…slither? Whorling tumors and worming appendages writhe across his form as a Star Spawn Seer3 of the Elder Evils overtakes his body. It then summons a Star Spawn Hulk3, the brute’s muscles look glassy and gangly as it charges the party…
4. Skek Seized. The Gnomish Occult Scientists show the party the body of the hunched and scarred vulture-mage, the dreaded Nagpa3 known as Skek, who had schemed and plundered for generations. Stilled and stupefied with powerful seals and sedatives, the Gnomes will now learn from it what they can with their Arcane Devices. With the first prod, the party begins to feel synesthesia, smelling the sounds of lingering and longing. With the second prod, the image of Skek’s auto-paralysis, preparing for Astral Projection, fills their minds. With the third prod, flashbacks of Skek reaching Gnosis, entering its Gneo Geo Dual Goetic Star Vehicle. With the fourth prod, Skek’s dispossessed spirit enters the Occult Laboratory machinery as an Eidolon3. And it will defend its long-awaited treasure with the utmost craftiness and cruelty…
5. Annihilation Approacheth. In the secluded monastery, the Chaos Monk Anoxia’s Third Eye awakens, the rhythm of her mantras quickening as she cuts and rearranges the pages ever more haphazardly. Above her, the party watches her Astral Doppelganger mirror every move. After a dazzling sequence of ASMR, Blue Pearl Astral Sight, and Holy Guardian Angel consultation, she awakes. She has spoken to the Calamity on the Horizon. She informs the party: annihilation approacheth. The Nightwalker3.
Well folks, that’s parts one, two, three, and four all done, all 100 Plot Hooks for the Western Esoteric & Occult traditions finished for you DM’s, worldbuilders, and D&D players. Please take a moment to share the article if you liked it, and let me know in the comments what you think. And congratulations to everyone who read the whole series! Next Tuesday I’ll post a bonus resource of all 100 Plot Hooks as a list and generator while I deal with my current hard drive failure and server migration fiasco. This week I’ll also update the structure for Parts 1-2 to match Parts 3-4 while I decide on my next series. In the meantime, I post original D&D memes and writing updates daily over on my site’s Facebook Page. Also, if you want to stay up-to-date on all my posts, look down at the bottom for my newsletter sign-up. And thanks as always to my Patron on Patreon, helping keep this project alive: Rudy. Thanks for your support, Rudy!