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Sunday, December 13, 2020

Planescape - A Guide to the Incanterium

by Tony DiTerlizzi

After I finished putting together my article on Planescape: Cutters, I was doing more digging. I learned that the Tower Sorcerous from "Cutters" is linked to a 'dead' Sigil faction called the Incanterium. 

I wrote a few sentences about them in my Guide to the Factions of Planescape, but I figure I'll dig up everything I can find, as it might give us more clues and info on what Planescape: Cutters is about.

You could use this in all sorts of ways. Having a few wizards running around in your campaign who sustain themselves by absorbing the magic from spells and magic items could lead to all sorts of cool adventures. An incantifer would make a great patron or a great villain. 

Essential Information

  • Incantifers are wizards who have learned to absorb magic. 
  • They no longer need to eat, sleep, or breathe. All they need is arcane energy.
  • They obsessively hoard magic items.
  • They were a powerful faction in Sigil, lived in the Tower Sorcerous.
  • One day, the tower and most of the incantifers vanished.
  • A few incantifers pop up now and then. They hunt for magic items and are unpleasant to be around.  
  • 5e Absorb Magic: Check out the 5e rod of absorption for a model of how this power might work.
  • Healing: In 3rd edition, it is revealed that they can't be healed by normal means. They have to drain magic to heal their wounds.
  • Magic Items: In 3e it also states that Incantifers can't drain permanent magic items - just potions, scrolls, and charges from wands and staves.

As far as I can tell, there are 3 known named Incantifers

  • Tivvum: Vanished founder of Tivvum's Antiquities in Sigil.
  • Alluvius Ruskin: Current proprietor of Tivvum's Antiquities, former protege of Tivvum.
  • Trikante the Incantifer: Quoted in "Nemesis," from Dungeon Magazine #60.

Planescape Monstrous Compendium II

Incantifer (also known as the Magicians or Wanters)

Magic: The Incaterium believed that the secret to everything was wizardly magic. Magic is so powerful, that archmages change the rules of the worlds they deal with. Gods fear them.

They collect magic items and magical lore, storing it all in Sigil's Tower Sorcerous ("a dark fortress of knowledge and ambition").

Vanished: Things were going nicely for the Incanterium until one day, the Tower Sorcerous vanished. Rumors had it that they'd all been mazed by the Lady of Pain, but nobody really knew.

Once in a while, a member shows up in Sigil, still trying to master all the magic of the multiverse.

They are self-centered, ambitious spellcasters who wield great arcane power. Magic has changed and twisted them. Traits:

  • Reeks of magic.
  • Appears old and frail (they use magic to delay death).
  • Their eyes are orbs of blank that shine silver.
  • They have uncanny grace and agility despite their decrepit appearance.
  • They do not need to breathe.
  • Immune to extremes of temperature/environment. 
  • They have incredible strength (18+).
  • All of them are spellcasters of anywhere from 9th level to 18th level.
  • Most are specialists: Wild mages, transmuters, conjurers, and evokers (Volo's Guide to Monsters stat blocks are perfect for this).
  • They often use and cast spells nobody else has ever heard of.

Magic Items: Incantifers carry lots of magic items. The average incantifier has:

  • 2-5 potions (healing, invisibility, invulnerability are common)
  • 1-3 scrolls (flesh to stone, protection)
  • 1-2 rings! (protection, regeneration, wizardry)
  • 1-3 wands
  • 2-5 miscellaneous magic items.
  • Armor: An example of incantifier armor is a mage armor spell, a cloak of displacement, and a ring of protection.

Magic Absorption: Incantifiers have the ability to absorb magic. In 2e terms, this means that if they pass their 'magic resistance' roll, they ignore the effects of the spell and heal 1 HP per spell level absorbed.

  • Absorbing a spell is like a rod of absorption.
  • Even dispel magic can be absorbed.
  • They can't absorb anti-magic auras.

Only a handful of Incantifers walk the planes.

Becoming an Incantifer: "Every so often, an incantifer will consent to teach a talented mage the secrets of their abilities, and cast a series of transformation spells that create a new incantifer."

The transformation requires dozens of dangerous spells and rituals that could take years to complete.
Example: One step might be to capture the flame of a balor from the Abyss. "The DM shouldn't allow player characters to attempt the feat."

Paranoid: They are very paranoid about their caches of magical treasure. They carry as much of their horde on their person as they can.

Anti-social: They have forgotten how to deal with people and see people as potential sources of magic.

Quest Givers: Incantifers often hire people for quests - dangerous quests that involve obtaining powerful magic items.

Absorbing Magic: They must absorb a certain amount of spell levels per month to sustain themselves. A 16th level Incantifer needs to drain 16 spell levels per month. They can also drain magic items. A rough conversion is given, explaining how many spell levels a magic item is worth (In 2e, magic items had an XP value. 500 XP equals 1 spell level).

The Incantifer Sect: They are no longer united, and don't get along. They see each other as rivals.

Philosophy: "Everything in the multiverse can be controlled by magic."

Enemies: They are their own worst enemies.

Alignment: Has to be neutral or evil. "'s not a good act to turn one's back on humanity and become a devourer of other people's magic."

Uncaged: Faces of Sigil

There is a somewhat famous lanescape NPC named Alluvius Ruskin. She is an incantifer. Alluvius runs Tivvum's Antiquities, the largest supplier of gate keys in Sigil. 

Old: She is a small elderly tiefling who speaks in a shaky voice.

Draining: She can absorb spells or drain the power from a magic item. She has to absorb enough magic each month each month, or else she loses some of her power.

"For an incantifer, magic is the key to everything because if equals might - if a body gets enough of it, he can bend the multiverse to his will."

The Faction: "Centuries ago, the incantifers were a full-fledged faction in Sigil. Called the Incanterium - and nicknamed the Magicians - the magic-eaters grew in power and influence until they could make the other factions jump. Then they just disappeared one day, citadel and all."

Tivvum: One of the remaining incantifers, named Tivvum, took Alluvius under his wing. She spent 12 years going through spells and rituals that transformed her into an Incantifer.

Tivvum eventually vanished. Alluvius took over his shop, Tivvum's Antiquities.

Her Secret Scheme: Alluvius secretly wants to drain Sigil itself of magic. She assumes that the Lady of Pain derives power from the city, and that she will get weaker. Alluvius thinks that if she rules Sigil, with all its portals, she'll effectively rule the multiverse.

Dragon Magazine #339 - Planescape Dead Factions

This article updates some dead factions to 3rd edition rules.

The Incanterium: "The Incanterium believed that arcane amgic is the root of all power. A wizard can carve out his own demiplane or change the laws of reality. Master magic and you master existence."

History: They once controlled a good chunk of Sigil by hoarding power in the Tower Sorcerous and manipulating the other factions. "Then, one otherwise dull morning, the Tower Sorcerous and nearly every member of the Incanterium simply vanished. The Lady of Pain had made her judgment."

Biology: They must consume magical power to stay alive. Their natural processes are driven by raw magic.

Not Friends: They view each other as rivals.

Becoming: The ritual to become an Incantifer now takes only 7 days.

Healing: Incantifers do not heal naturally, and cannot be healed by normal means. Only the act of draining magic replenishes their physical health. 

Arcane Body: No need to eat, drink, or sleep. No negative effects from aging, no maximum age.

Spell Eater: Depends on magic to live, must absorb arcane magic to heal.  "If an arcane spell or spell-like ability does not beat an incantifer's spell resistance, the incantifer absorbs the magic and heals 1d4 hit points per level. Spells that ignore or oversome the incantifer's spell resistance affect him as normal."

"When a spell is negated by the incantifer's spell resistance, he may choose to use either the spell eater or spell leech ability, but not both."

Spell Leech: "If an arcane spell or spell-like ability does not beat the incantifer's spell resistance, the incantifer regains a spell of the absorbed spell's level that he has already cast that day..."

Spell Eater 2: We get some rules on draining magic items. "This ability has no effect on multiple-use items without charges, like magic weapons, armor, or rings."

I can see why they did that. You could end up with characters running around draining other people's magic items, either fellow members of the party, or all the bad guys in your adventure. It takes just one round.

I think if I was making this for 5e, I would definitely allow Incantifers to drain all types of magic items. Just say it takes 5 minutes, or an hour. A short rest, maybe.

Spell Leech 2: At 5th level, an incantifer can drain charges from a staff or wand to regain spells they have already cast. This can only be used on an item the incantifer is holding.

Dead Gods

In Chapter 7 of this adventure, titled "The Ruins of Pelion," the players are meant to make up new characters, who will play through events in the distant past. 

Because it takes place in the past, they can only be members of certain factions, as others didn't exist yet. It says: "Naturally, Sigil did have other factions at that time - including the Expansionists, the Sodkillers, and the Incanterium - but since those groups're long gone, it's easiest to leave them out. The DM's free to allow them if he wants to outline their parameters for the players."

The Planewalker's Handbook

There is a section on sects. "Some are former factions that fell in importance or membership (perhaps because of the Great Upheaval). Others are just groups that espouse ideas unique or limited to a particular plane or realm."

They list some more well-known groups, including: "The Incantifers, who believe that mastering magic is the key to total power.."

Faction War

This adventure is partly about a wizard who nearly killed the Lady of Pain. His mind resides in a magic gem called the Labyrinth Stone. Shattering the stone will activate long dormant magic. 

Alluvius Ruskin, the incantifier, has long sought the Labyrinth Stone. "She knows it contains the spirit of the ancient spellslinger, and she figures he could help her fight the Lady of Pain and ultimately conquer Sigil.

The Incanterium is mentioned a few other times in the book.

Incanterium Control: "Chant has it that long ago, the Lower Ward was called the Prime Ward. Newcomers settled here. That is, such folks were actually herded here by the Sodkillers or the Incanterium, then-extant factions that didn't want primes wandering around the city and getting in the way of their business."

Alluvius Has Big Drain Ideas: She doesn't want to rule the city so much as drain every last drop of magic out of Sigil.

Her Home: "As an incantifer, Lu has no need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Fact is, her ring of hidden rooms and hallways - entombed in the stone walls of the tower, with no ventilation - contains very little oxygen."

Alluvius has a library. In it is a lot of cool stuff, including a book that lists portals and keys, a manual of golems (creates golems made of rope and portal keys) and:

A History of the Incanterium: Written by Tivvum himself! "Flimsy and faded, the book describes the founding of a faction of mighty spellslingers, the power they wielded in Sigil, and their eventual destruction by the Lady of Pain. (Tivvum survived, obviously, since he wrote about it, and he's the blood who made Lu what she is today.) The book also points out that the Incanterium derived its inspiration from the ancient wizard who challenged the Lady of Pain, only to become trapped in an impenetrable ebony jewel."

Dungeon Magazine #60 - Nemesis

Nemesis actually starts out like this: "Trikante the Incantifer once wrote of Vudra as "a dismal agglomeration of tropical islands choked with impenetrable jungles and surrounded by oceans of heaving blood."

4e Manual of the Planes

Yeah, that's right, Alluvius Ruskin is mentioned in the 4th edition Manual of the Planes! It's pretty much the same info, but here it is:

"Despite the taint of her infernal bloodline, “Lu” (as she is known to her frequent clients) seems innocuous, even charming, coming across as a kindly old person with her customers’ best interests at heart. The reality, though, is that Alluvius is a powerful mage whose magic can raise the trinkets of her store into animate constructs to defend it. What’s more, she’s a member of an ancient, nearly vanished sect called the Incanterium, and long rituals have infused her entire being with arcane magic. Magic sustains her to the exclusion of food and even air, and she’s hungry for more."

Dragon #414 - Bazaar of the Bizarre: From the Attic of Alluvius Ruskin

This article doesn't actually mention the Incanterium, but it gives lots of fun details about Alluvius and her shop.

We learn that she is looking more aged and frail. She sells all sorts of items, including:

  • Mimir: A small floating skull that can record sounds around it and play them back.
  • Karach Armor: Githzerai armor made from the essence of Limbo.
  • Spellsoul Blade: A sword containing a soul, can do damage of different types.
  • Modron Toy: Can summon a modron.

My Other Planescape Articles


Mimir takes a stab at a 5e Incantifer


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