The Language of Magic
Spells are the thoughts of the dead gods, transcribed onto clay tablets.
The transcriptions are written in the fundamental language of the universe. Hence, each inscription represents an alteration (however small) to reality.
Were someone to learn the language of the gods, they could become gods themselves, able – through transcendent speech – to adjust reality to their will. Unfortunately, in the minds of men, the characters of this language are transitory and fleeting. They pass swiftly through the mind and are gone.
Certain scholars have attempted to memorize spells from the tablets. This invariably leads to insanity, and frequently causes the victim to combust.
Instead, spells are transcribed by rote onto tablets. The scribes must take care not to dwell too closely on the nature of the inscriptions as they are copied, lest their minds collapse. After rigorous training, one can then examine the inscriptions, and – through a sacrifice of blood – briefly invoke the reality-altering power of the words.
A character not so trained may attempt to cast a spell in this way, but they must also save or take d6 Charisma damage. A Charisma score reduced to zero equals brain-death. It is far safer to simply smash the tablet, which releases the power of the transcribed words in a single blast.
There are no “spell levels” as such. Any spell that scales can be cast at any level less than or equal to your own.
One must also expend blood to cast a spell. If the caster’s blood (or that of a submissive victim) is used, the cost is 2 hp per spell level. The blood of a freshly-dead creature grants 1 spell level per HD of the victim.
Basic d&d spells can probably be converted by feel, but here are some examples:
“The Manifestation of Destructive Energy.” Arcane motes strike designated targets unerringly. One missile is fired, plus a second at 4th level, a third at 8th, a fourth at 12th, and so on. Each deals d4+1 damage.
“Stillness of Water.” Any Diviner caravan will have many magicians bearing this spell. The person on whom this is cast is nourished by their own blood, sweat, and other liquid excretions, and is sated by half the usual amount of water – half a drachm instead of one. Lasts for 1 day per 2 levels.
“Withdrawal of the Divine Essence.” Traditionally cast upon the dead after a battle, drawing upon their own life-essence. This spell draws all the liquid from a corpse, dead no longer than an hour, and causes it to crystallize into a floating orb; capture it in a waterskin before it dissipates. Creatures usually contain 1 drachm of water per HD, but no more than 1 drachm per level can be withdrawn.