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Of Spells and Nails

28 Mar

Through the Chaotic Neutral nature of Facebook I came across this tutorial for imprinting text onto your fingernails posted on the Glitter Fingersss Tumblr site.

This has some real gaming potential.

Imagine an order of magic users or clerics who seek out scrolls. Members of this order take the scrolls and use this technique to transfer the spells they contain onto their fingernails. The process imbues the recipient with the power to wield the spell. Perhaps at will, perhaps once per day, perhaps once per finger. Protection spells in particular could be made ongoing through this process.

The empowerment of the fingernails wains over time as the fingernails grow out and the text is gradually destroyed. However legends tell of certain masters who take great care to grow their fingernails to extraordinary lengths in order to preserve the enchantments. It’s rumored that some sorcerers have learned to grow their nails so long that multiple spells can be imprinted on them, though attempting to contain such power is a sure path to insanity.

Photo from the Telegraph

This technique can also be used as a punishment, by imprinting curses on the fingernails of those who have offended the order. The curse cannot be dispelled by normal means and remains in effect until the nails grow out.

Or when they are pulled from the fingers. Or the fingers are removed.

Imprinted nails could add a delightfully macabre way to add magic to your game.

Photo from GlitterFingersss

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4 responses to “Of Spells and Nails

  1. Matt

    March 28, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    I like the idea of a magical order using nails being used to inscribe magical spells upon. It reminds me a lot of the Red Wizards of Thay in the Forgotten Realms who used tattoos to do the same thing.

    However I don’t see masters of this order taking great care to grow out their nails since magic could accomplish this feat in a lot less time then the years it takes people like those pictured above to do it. Going by D&D spell mechanics, a spell to grow out your nails is probably akin to a cantrip, so we’re talking 1st or 0-level magic (depending on the D&D edition). Multiple castings might be needed to grow out your nails to lengths like those pictured above, though I’m thinking a 2nd-level spell might be able to accomplish that feat in a single casting.

    Crafting the spells on the nails would be take some effort (suffering the time and expense restrictions one would incur in creating spell scrolls and treating the nails as parchment). This then raises the interesting question of what would happen if the practitioner clips his nails after the spells are inscribed. Do the spells lose their potency because they are not attached to the user or can the practitioner carry along the spell-inscribed nails and use them like spell scrolls?

     
    • Fractalbat

      March 28, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      The reason they grow their nails out is so that they don’t have to re-inscribe the spells. Powerful scrolls would be difficult to come by so they want to preserve the inscription as long as possible. Instead of using magic to speed up that growth I would see them using spells to slow it down. I could see allowing a magic user or cleric to burn a daily first level spell in order to slow the growth and keep the inscriptions potent for longer, but because magic is fickle I wouldn’t let them completely stop the nail growth.

      The ones intentionally growing their nails out to make room for more inscriptions would be driven insane by containing that much power in their body. But sanity is a small price for power and as a DM I wouldn’t mind if they used magic to hurry the growth, and their insanity, along. That would be an easy enough mechanic to come up with. Or maybe the cost isn’t insanity, but the risk of attracting attention from a demon lord with a penchant for fingernails.

      Not to mention the Dex penalties.

      This all brings up the image of a perverse nail salon, staffed by homonculi specially trained to perform occult pedicures.

      “Do the spells lose their potency because they are not attached to the user or can the practitioner carry along the spell-inscribed nails and use them like spell scrolls?”

      You could do it either way, but I think I’d be inclined to let them revert to working like a scroll, as a single use casting, releasing the residual life energy of the mage whose hand they are no longer attached to.

      I could see an interesting challenge here. You have managed to clip the ten nails of the mighty wizard Lee Presson, which contain the power to cast Banishment, complete with the True Name of the arch-devil that is attacking the kingdom. The problem is that all ten nails were tossed in the pouch together and you need to figure out what order they go in. Getting the nails mixed up while casting the Banishment would be… bad.

      Or you could take it down a different path. Magicians who imprison elves and inscribe their spells on their nails to draw on their innate connection to magic. Once the nails grow out far enough they are clipped, creating magical totems that, unlike scrolls (and the idea I mentioned above about them reverting to single use), can be used multiple times. A group like your Pax Magi could have been doing this to the elves of the Brass Kingdom both for revenge and to give their acolytes access to spells beyond their ability to cast, and through a process easier than creating magic wands.

      That last idea is probably not compatible with the rest of the ideas and I’d pick one or the other depending on the game.

      Great reference to the Red Wizards of Thay! They were a cool group.

       
  2. kirsten myers

    November 28, 2015 at 11:29 AM

    How do you get that nail designs and how in the heck do keep long nails so do you not wipe crochet after peeing

     
    • Fractalbat

      November 28, 2015 at 3:54 PM

      I’m just going to hope they have a bidet and try not to think too much about it. Dwelling too much on it may cause sanity loss.

       

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