Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
The old and weary wizard took this moment for himself. Amidst the blazing fires of battle and screams of men and beast alike, his mind was like a stone. His eyes were focused and mind sharp as he knew his next strike must be his last, for a wayward blow would surely result in his death and, worse, the failure of his quest, the terrible consequences of which he knew all too well.
Elminster Aumar had spent seasons upon seasons in conflict with the most powerful enemy he had ever faced. The chase across all of Faerun had left many dead on both sides, and more would die before the sun set on this day. Only the strongest of Elminster’s allies remained to stand against the might of the City of Shade’s dread Lord Shadow, the truest and most powerful shadow mage to have ever walked the realms. The onslaught of magical energies would surely have torn the minds of most mortal men asunder with the same ease it now tore the city itself to pieces, the towers crumbling before the sheer power of Lord Shadow’s insane assault.
The city named Thultanthar, City of Shade in the common tongue, now floated high above Myth Drannor. Should Telamont, Lord Shadow, complete the ritual he now focused his energies on, all would be lost. The very fabric which held our world together would be torn asunder to an extent which had not happened since the death of Mystral. Shar would rise and all else would fall before her.
To break the concentration of a wizard as powerful as Telamont Tanthul would require Elminster to surpass both the magical barriers and martial power of the man. Knowing that a missed strike would leave him vulnerable to a reprisal that would most definitely be fatal, Elminster Aumar, who had lived for over 1,000 years, for the first time in many centuries considered the possibility that he may actually die.
Elminster drew his blade, laying his hand upon the flat of it, and closed his eyes. In that moment a silence washed over him, and he was truly and completely one with his sword, it being an extension of his own arm and he an extension of its power. The blade of the sword hummed lowly as Elminster opened his eyes. The glow it gave off would have been imperceptible to most mortals, or perhaps manifest as some strange and fleeting notion of great power to those magically attuned. To Elminster, however, the sword glowed with power nearly blinding. He turned from the pillar, extending his left hand to indicate Lord Shadow and steeling himself for what was to come.
History of the Spell
The fact that Lord Shadow, the inheritor king of the Netherese Empire, was killed by a wizard using True Strike is considered one of the great ironies of magic. The story is, in fact, still told as a parable to aspiring wizards and as a warning to fledgling sorcerers. No direct proof remains of the creation and the research of the True Strike divination, the recorded history of much of that ancient era, known often as the Nether Age, being lost to time.
Most arcane historians, however, attribute the creation of True Strike to the first generation of magical Netherese kings. When the Netherese first came into possession of the Nether Scrolls, they were a warlike and ambitious people. Their powerful mages copied spell after spell from the powerful scrolls, each mage learning more about magic in a generation than most societies could in an entire era. As is often the case with ambitious cultures, their research took on a violent aspect quickly. Though spells of every nature were researched and created, it was those that could be applied in battle that first found common usage.
In the later years of the Netherese Empire, magical talent among the Netherese was so common that even the lowest of peasants had the ability to utilize basic cantrips. However, in the early years, this was not the case, and the Netherese armies still relied heavily on the use of traditional martial skill on the battlefield. True Strike was a natural choice for the Netherese, who so often relied on ambush tactics and brutal shock troops in their front lines. The Netherese battelmages were so powerful, and the laws of magic so much for fluid at that time, that they had the power to channel True Strike into entire companies of their front line soldiers, who could then cast it themselves from hiding, before an ambush. The result of this assault was often a devastating first strike, which crippled the enemy and prevented all chance of mounting an effective defense.
The spell fell out of mass use in the time following Karsus’ Folly, during which a high wizard of the Netherese Empire inadvertently destroyed the entire empire in a misguided attempt at gaining the power of the god of magic, convincing the gods to limit the power of magic that could we wielded by mortals. The death of the Netherese Empire severely decreased the popularity of the spell. Several other nations attempted to recreate the tactics of the Netherese over the following centuries. However, the gods had cut off such complete access to magic, and the casting of True Strike on more than a single person had become impossible. So too was its duration limited.
The True Strike had been one of the most devastating weapons of a dead nation, but soon it fell into disuse, only being employed by highly tactical thinkers.
It was not until several centuries later that the spell would be made popular again by none other than Elminster Aumar himself. The Netherese are an oft cited example of magical power and ambition unchecked leading to self destruction, and every young wizard knows the story of Karsus’ Folly. It is, however, the story of True Strike that instructors relay to their students, when the subtly of the far reaching consequences of magical research and activity must be intimated, for, nearly 5,000 years after the creation of True Strike by the Netherese, it would be the instrument of their own destruction.
Casting & Material
The casting of True Strike is not overly complex. The caster, be they wizard, bard, sorcerer, or warlock, holds close to them the weapon and extends their finger towards the intended target. Some feel the spell is in some way enhanced by making direct eye contact with the opponent, however, this has been proven to be more superstition than actual arcane fact. In truth, the indication of the target is more akin to the transference of knowledge to one’s own weapon than to some supernatural connection between attacker and target.
Though less common, a caster may instead wish to guide their magical attacks. In such cases, it is common for the caster to create the magical bond with their arcane focus or the material components being used to cast the spell rather than a martial weapon.
The simplicity of casting True Strike extends also to its appearance. Most casters indicate that their weapon or arcane focus seems to hum with energy. In truth, the weapon or focus itself is not the source of the sound, but the point at which the caster is holding the object. The noise is thought to be an effect of the energies of caster and weapon or focus resonating in concert. The vast majority of creatures will perceive nothing else. Creatures with True Sight or some natural and innate ability to detect magical energies will see the weapon or focus begin to glow with a near blinding light.
The bond created between the weapon or focus and wielder is not long lasting, but is very powerful. For a brief period, often no more than six seconds, the wielder will find an unnatural and uncanny ease in the use of their weapon or focus, feeling as if it were an extension of their own body. At the same time, the weapon or focus will seem drawn towards the indicated enemy.
If, within the six seconds, the caster’s blade or bludgeoning instrument makes contact with the indicated enemy, the imperceptible energy guiding the weapon will burst from it and dissipate. Likewise, should a spell be cast through use of the focus, the energy will burst forth from it as the spell contacts the target. Should the six seconds pass without the weapon finding its target, the immense amount of concentration necessary to maintain the spell will become overwhelming, and the energy will naturally dissipate.