It is because of this "weeding out" process that most mages and clerics are quite proud of their survival. But it also results in an almost casual disregard for the lives of acolites and apprentices, as the spellcaster knows not to get too attached...
Whether a Mage, Cleric or even Druid, all use of magic is about the accumulation and use of POWER. This power may be derived from a planets homeostatic life force, alien patronage, or dread mathematical formulae (See Random Acts: Religion for details).
But how do the really powerful spellcasters DO it? How do they amass power and prestige without dying or having their souls sucked out? Well, it all comes down to powerful "friends" and magic items.
Magic Items: Magical devices of all sorts come in many shapes and sizes, from enchanted daggers, potions and rings, to vast mechanisms and artifacts of terrible power. Smaller scale magic items should be hightly thematic, such as a ring or similar device that grants the wearer/user access to one or more spells. Such spells may drain Hit Points as per normal spellcasting, or perhaps the device has a "battery" that powers this effect (and that can be drained).
As a rule of thumb, I would recomment requiring that magic items be made from rare materials such as the body parts of weird creatures such as elementals, xenogen, elementals or other beings. Have the creature chosen make sense, such as using the hide of a creature that can become invisible to make a cloak of invisibility and the like. Be creative.
The most powerful forms of magic items are those that have permanent effects and always do what they are built to do. In Strange Eons such items take the form of weird machines from mans prehistory, repaired or rebuilt by enterprizing wizards, Xenogen or awakened machines.
Some examples of some magic items and wonderous machines are found below:
Mirror of Thought
A minor magical device made from the scales of a Star Worm (xenogen Vimanas). By concentrating on it, the owner can form an image of his thoughts in the glass.
Made from the branches of the Death Tree of Tethys, these black staffs are much sought after by Mages. Any successful strike with the staff deals normal damage and poisons the creature hit. The poison deals 1d10 additional points of damage immediately (Strength negates DC 14) and another 1d10 points of damage 1 minute later (Strength negates DC 14).
Riding Golems (Mecha)
These can be anything from enormous clay or stone golems, giant animated skeletons of enormous demons and powered by undead or horrid things resembling straight out of the adolescent wet dreams of H.R. Giger.. All of these devices are big, powerful and built to bring fearsome war on the enemy. Players who cannot be creative should NEVER be allowed to create or run War Golems.
Xenogen rarely use War Golems, preferring to use enormous monsters or engaging in battle themselves. Some monsters of the xenogen are just as large and fearsome as any war golem and often are accompanied by smaller xenogen or undead who can dwell within the creatures like parasites, waiting to be "deployed".
"O King, this beautifully decorated airplane had been manufactured by the demon Maya and was equipped with weapons for all types of combat. It was inconceivable and indescribable. Indeed, it was sometimes visible and sometimes not. Seated in this airplane under a beautiful protective umbrella and being fanned by the best of camaras, Maharaja Bai, surrounded by his captains and commanders, appeared just like the moon rising in the evening, illuminating all directions."
- Swami Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta, Srimad Bhagavatam
Vimanas are machines originally created by ancient magics to fly through the sky and between the worlds using the mysterious force of "Gravitas" for propulsion. These vessels are all wonders of engineering.
Regardless of their original design, vimanas are almost always refitted and redesigned to reflect the taste of the new engineer. And so these vessels tend to look more like flying fortresses, strange beasts or sailing vessels.
Another avenue to power for spellcasters is to seek alliance with non-humanoid intelligences, which in this case will mean the Xenogen. These alien entities posses a potency in the use of magical energy that astounds human mages. However rather than taking levels in Mage, Cleric or other spellcasting class, the xenogen have an ability to create magic items without the need for spellcasting ability, ignoring any spellcasting requirements.
Natural magical powers are also common (even hum-drum) to xenogen. Differing types and classes of xenogen can survive in environments nigh impossible for humans (without magical aid that is), such as the depths of space, crushing gravity or hostile atmospheres. Because of these resistances, and the ability to fly, pass through walls or other powers make the use of these creatures quite appealing to power hungry spellcasters.
When a xenogen makes common cause with a mortal, it will often be a mixed blessing. These things are WEIRD and will not really understand the needs and wants of its mortal "friend" (or perhaps it simply wont care). The more powerful the xenogen, the more extreme things will be asked for its favor. Human sacrifice or other depravities are common prices in these deals, but might also be a desire for rare materials or other things.
Hit Dice: 1d8 (4 hp), AC: 16 (+2 size, +4 Dex), Attacks: Bite -2 melee (1d3-3)
Str 4, Dex 18, Mind 18.
Communication +10, Subterfuge +10, Knowledge +13, Physical -2.
A familiar is a alien creature summoned from a distant star by a wizard to act as a companion and adviser. No two familiars are like, but the form of one of these creatures is usually reminiscent of some being that brings fear or revulsion to humans; a familiar could resemble a diminutive human, rat, a cat-sized spider or toad, a maggot or slug the length of a human arm, or any other repulsive creature. Familiars are actually formless spirits, only assuming a physical shape that its master can comprehend. Regardless of form, familiars are oozing, bloated things. They are capable of speech in a gurgling voice.
"They may have been ugly. they may have been evil. But when it came to poetry in motion, the Things had all the grace and coordination of a deck-chair."
- -- Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites (on the creatures of the Dungeon Dimensions)
Half-Fiend +3MIND, -1STR or -1DEX