Velociraptor Magic

By Joseph Goodman

Illustrations by Tim Burgard and Brian England

Velociraptors are not the largest dinosaurs, nor the strongest, nor the scariest. Tyrannosaurus rex can eat a tribe of velociraptors for dinner, brachiosaurus shakes the earth with every footstep, and kronosaurus can swallow boats whole. Yet velociraptors are the most feared of all dinosaurs, for a single reason: they are smarter than humans. Homo sapiens’ tool-using opposable thumb is its only advantage over velociraptor mongoliensis. But in game worlds where raptors can observe humans and their tools, the raptors learn quickly, and the advantages of a thumb diminish with every passing day.

Goodman Games recently released The Complete Guide to Velociraptors, a stand-alone, world-neutral guide to the most intriguing dinosaurs of all time. The Complete Guide covers social structure, cultural habits, combat strategies, tribe design, den layout, raptor-specific character classes, new feats, and everything else you’d ever want to know about raptors – everything, that is, except magic. You can only fit so much in 32 pages! This article picks up where the book left off, expanding on velociraptor magic and the shamans who wield it. Combined with the Complete Guide to Velociraptors, it is everything you need to introduce these fascinating dinosaurs into any fantasy campaign.

Raptor Shamans. Velociraptor shamans are the only raptors to exhibit magical ability. Rather than participate in the tribe’s daily hunts, the shamans study the world around them. They mix potions, acids, poisons, and explosives from the various roots, herbs, spices, animal byproducts, and natural artifacts that they collect in their studies. Eventually they develop such a deep understanding of the world’s natural order that they experience unbidden premonitions that tell them the course nature will take. In a select few shamans, their intuitive nature and heightened awareness of the natural order manifests itself as natural magical abilities.

Raptor shamans are sorcerer-like; their spells come from within, as inherent abilities, rather than through research or practice. This is a good thing, as raptors have no written language – raptor wizards would have a hard time with spell books! Unlike sorcerers, however, raptor shamans derive their power from Wisdom, not Charisma. It is their innate understanding of the world around them that attunes them to their own magical abilities. Moreover, velociraptor magic is centered around observation and imitation of natural creatures, for which Wisdom is a prerequisite.

Raptor Magic. Velociraptor magic is conceptually primitive. This isn’t because raptors are unintelligent (they’re exactly the opposite), but rather because shamans perceive the world in an integrated and holistic manner. They don’t think abstractly, nor do they mentally separate traits from the creatures that evidence them. For example, a shaman doesn’t think, "I wish I could fly." She thinks, "I wish I could be a pteranadon." The raptor spell Lizard Wings – their version of the Fly spell – reflects this: rather than granting abstract flying ability, it actually transforms the subject’s arms into pteranadon-like wings which in turn convey flying ability.

The leap from "pteranadons fly" to "flying is a trait which pteranadons and certain other creatures exhibit" is conceptually difficult. Some philosophers think abstract thought evolves from tool use, whereby creatures discover that they can step above the confines of their environment and modify it as outsiders. With continued exposure to other races, especially tool-users and magical sophisticates, raptors will eventually develop more abstract spells. For now, however, their spells are inextricably linked to the natural world they spend so much time observing.

The Ways. A shaman hones her magical ability by imitating the creatures around her. Through practice, observation, and self-discovery, she learns the Primal Fury of a T-rex, or the Thundering Charge of a triceratops. Since almost all raptor magic is an imitation of natural phenomenon, it is thus classified according to the creature it imitates. These are the Ways – the Way of the Triceratops, the Way of the Tyrannosaur, the Way of the Pteranadon, and so on.

A raptor shaman gains spells according to the creatures it studies the most. A shaman who has spent her life observing the triceratops, for example, would gain spells from the Way of the Triceratops. More on this follows below.

New Character Class: Velociraptor Shaman (Spellcaster Variant)

Velociraptor shamans are wizened, ancient raptors who give strength to their tribes by mixing potions, powders, and poisons; making prognostications; guiding interactions with the wild; and performing rites and rituals.

Characteristics: Shamans are always female. They tend to be solemn and reticent, even more so than the usual raptor. They come across as very wise, but a little unsettling; humans get nervous around them. (Most humans get nervous around any velociraptor, of course, but even those who are comfortable with raptors get nervous around shamans.)

Apprentices often train for many years before they reach even first level. Only the eldest shamans achieve level five or higher.

Alignment: Like all velociraptors, shamans are usually lawful neutral. Their tendency toward solitary research and absence from the hunt (which is the primary bonding activity for most raptors) makes them more likely to become exiles than other raptors.

Background: Shamans begin training as apprentices when they are very young. Their importance to the tribe is felt in the fact that they rarely enter battle directly. As such, they live to ripe old ages (at least by raptor standards).


Velociraptor shamans have the following game statistics.

Abilities: Shamans must have a strong connection to the world around them. They must also be smart enough to interpret that connection, understand it, and experiment with it. Wisdom and Intelligence are important abilities for shamans.

If you are designing NPC velociraptor shamans, assume their Wis and Int are 1d4 points higher than the average raptor.

Alignment: Usually lawful neutral, but any is acceptable.

Hit Die: d8.

Class Skills

The velociraptor shaman’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Alchemy (Int), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intuit Direction (Wis), Knowledge (nature, arcana) (Int), Scry (Int, exclusive skill), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language, Spellcraft (Int) and Wilderness Lore (Wis).

Skill Points at 1st Level: (8 + Int modifier) x 4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 8 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the velociraptor shamans.

Alchemy: A shaman adds her class level as a bonus to alchemy skill checks. Depending on her knowledge of the local ecosystem, she can mix ingredients as follows.

A first level shaman can mix poisons and healing potions. Higher level shamans can mix more potent versions. A healing potion restores hit points equal to 1d8 + the shaman’s level. A poison drains 1d4 Str points (both initial and secondary) and is resisted with a Fort save against DC 12 + the shaman’s level.

Shamans can also harvest naturally occurring poisons from the glands of poisonous prey. This requires a Wilderness Lore check against DC 6. On a failed check there is a 5% chance that the raptor poisons herself by accident.

At second level, a shaman may mix acids from natural ingredients. (Even if she has the Alchemy skill, this ability does not materialize until she learns where to find the appropriate ingredients – hence the second level requirement.) The acid causes damage of 1d6 plus the shaman’s level with a direct hit, or one point plus the shaman’s level in splash damage.

At third level, a shaman can mix custom poisons. (Even with the Alchemy skill, she doesn’t know where to find the proper ingredients until third level.) Work with your GM to determine the specifics of mixing the poison; locating the proper ingredients requires a Wilderness Lore check, and mixing it requires an Alchemy check.

At fourth level, a shaman can mix simple explosives. The explosives can take the form of grenades, sticks, or powders. Raptors like to get their claws bloody, so they rarely use explosives in the hunt, but they do use them in traps, against other raptors, and when nothing else will work. In grenade concentrations, the explosives cause 2d6 damage plus the shaman’s level, with an area effect of 5 ft. plus the shaman’s level.

Poison Resistance: At third level, a shaman’s constant exposure to low-level poison dosages causes her to develop a natural resistance. She gains the feat Poison Resistance.

Natural Premonition: Shamans are inveterate observers. They notice the tiniest details about the world around them, and use those details to portend what path nature will take. At the most basic level, this is simple meteorology; at higher levels, it encompasses herd movements, climate changes, drought predictions, and an innate sense of predator-prey ratios. In day-to-day terms, the shamans are so attuned to the behavior of local animals that they can predict their behavior based on brief observations.

At fifth level, a shaman starts to have natural premonitions. These are sudden bursts of instinct that tell the shaman what a creature will do. Natural premonition may be used once per day per level.

When observing wild creatures in their natural habitat, the shaman can make a Wilderness Lore check to attempt to predict their actions. Depending on level, a bonus is applied to this check. This only works with creatures native to the shaman’s home territory, which she has had the opportunity to observe for many years.

Against DC 20, the shaman correctly predicts the creature’s next immediate action. For example, when the raptor tribe is stalking prey, the shaman could correctly predict whether it will turn right or left when they charge.

Against DC 25, the shaman correctly predicts the creature’s feelings and general inclinations, and knows what it will do over the next hour or so. For example, when the raptor tribe has to break off the hunt to avoid encountering a T-rex, the shaman could correctly predict that the prey is thirsty and will be found at the watering hole in about an hour.

Against DC 30, the shaman correctly predicts the creature’s overarching motives, and knows what it will do over the next several days. This doesn’t mean the shaman can pinpoint its exact position at every minute for the next three days, but it does mean the shaman can know, more or less, where it will be grazing, whether it will be on its guard or not, where it is headed, whether it has a lair somewhere (and if so, where it might be), and so on.

Spells: A velociraptor shaman casts arcane spells, the same type available to wizards and sorcerers. The shaman’s spell knowledge depends on what Way she specializes in. She knows the most about the creature she has studied the most, and she gains additional spells within that Way. You may choose the Way of the Tyrannosaur, the Way of the Triceratops, or the Way of the Pteranadon. (Or you may devise spells for a Way based on another creature.) The number of spells your character knows is indicated on Table 1-2, with the "+1" indicating spells that must be within your character’s Way.

Shamans choose spells from the druid spell lists. They may choose any spell that it would make sense for a raptor to know. For example, raptors don’t use staves, so they wouldn’t know Shillelagh; and they don’t have a written language, so they wouldn’t know Read Magic. Use common sense to evaluate which spells are appropriate.

Table 1-1: Velociraptor Shaman
Base Fort Ref Will
Level Attack Bonus Save Save Save Special
1 +0 +0 +0 +2 Mix poison and healing potions
2 +1 +0 +0 +3 Mix acids
3 +1 +1 +1 +3 Poison resistance, custom poisons
4 +2 +1 +1 +4 Mix explosives
5 +5 +1 +1 +4 Natural premonition
6 +3 +2 +2 +5
7 +3 +2 +2 +5 Natural premonition +2
8 +4 +2 +2 +6
9 +4 +3 +3 +6 Natural premonition +3
10 +5 +3 +3 +7

Table 1-2: Velociraptor Shaman Spells
Spells per Day Spells Known
Level 0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1 2 3 4 5
1 5 3 - - - - 3+1 1+1 - - - -
2 6 4 - - - - 4+1 1+1 - - - -
3 6 5 - - - - 4+1 2+1 - - - -
4 6 6 3 - - - 5+1 2+1 0+1 - - -
5 6 6 4 - - - 5+1 3+1 1+1 - - -
6 6 6 5 3 - - 6+1 3+1 1+1 0+1 - -
7 6 6 6 4 - - 6+1 4+1 2+1 1+1 - -
8 6 6 6 5 3 - 7+1 4+1 2+1 1+1 0+1 -
9 6 6 6 6 4 - 7+1 4+1 3+1 2+1 1+1 -
10 6 6 6 6 5 3 8+1 4+1 3+1 2+1 1+1 0+1

New Spells

Here are some of the specialized spells developed by velociraptors, classified according to three of the most common Ways: Way of the Tyrannosaur, Way of the Triceratops, and Way of the Pteranadon. 

Way of the Tyrannosaur

Rending Jaws
Level: Vsh1
Components: V, F
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature touched
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless) 

The subject’s jaws lengthen, its gape widens, and its teeth grow. The muscles in its cheek expand and its bite is strengthened tenfold. It gains a +6 enhancement bonus to Strength, but only when using its bite. Creatures that have no natural bite attack (such as humans) gain a bite attack that causes normal (not subdual) damage of 1 + Str bonus. Creatures that already have a bite attack (such as velociraptors) increase their attack bonus and damage based on their new Str. For a normal velociraptor, the bite becomes +4 melee, damage 2d4+3.

Focus: A tooth from a large carnosaur – such as ceratosaurus, allosaurus, albertosaurus, tyrannosaurus, or spinosaurus.

Monstrous Mouth
Evocation [Force]
Level: Vsh1
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Targets: Any number within a diameter of 5 ft./level
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes

The shaman calls forth a set of magical toothed jaws. The jaws grow in size as they arc over the target and engulf it before clamping down with a bone-shattering snap. All enemies within the diameter of the bite (5 ft. per caster level) are affected. The jaws cause 1d4+1 points of damage.

This spell is known among sarcastic human observers as several other names – Dental Death, Orthodontic Attack, and so on.

Primal Fury
Level: Vsh 2
Components: V, M
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature touched
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

The subject is imbued with the primal fury of a tyrannosaurus rex. Its muscles bulge and ripple beneath the skin, its legs gain a powerful edge, and it acquires a bloody enthusiasm for skull-crushing combat. The spell grants the following benefits:

  • An enhancement bonus of 1d4+1 points to Strength and Constitution.
  • A +2 morale bonus to Will saves against any fear-causing effect.
  • An irresistible desire to close for melee. The subject must use every available action to enter close combat, short of suicide or obviously self-damaging decisions.
Arcane Material Component: Some small relic of a T-rex – a tooth or claw, a bit of hide, or a pinch of dung.

Way of the Triceratops

Armored Frill
Level: Vsh1
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature touched
Duration: 1 hour/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

This spell causes the subject’s skull to thicken noticeably, then sprout a knobby, armored frill. The frill arcs down and backward, protecting the neck, shoulders, back, and arms. This substantial defense grants a +7 bonus to AC. The armored frill is very real – unlike a force field, it does have physical consequences. The frill weighs 50 lbs. on a Large creature (double at each size thereafter). The spell builds neck and shoulder muscles to balance the frill’s weight, so the subject doesn’t even feel the weight and is considered to be wearing only medium armor (speed 40 ft. for a raptor). However, the weight is real, and should be taken into account for mounts and other spells as necessary. The subject’s maximum Dex bonus is +3, its armor check penalty is –4, and it has a 25% chance of arcane spell failure.

Thundering Charge
Level: Vsh1
Components: V, M, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Target: One creature (Large or smaller) per caster level
Duration: Next charge
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

Few animals can withstand the thundering charge of an enraged triceratops. This spell conveys the might of that charge. On its next charge, the subject gains these benefits:

  • Its charge distance is triple its speed, not double as normal.
  • Its momentum is as if it had the weight of a triceratops. It receives a +10 bonus to its attack roll.
  • Its damage is doubled as if it had charged with the lance-like horns of a triceratops.
Arcane Material Component: A pinch of mud or dirt in which the footprint of a charging triceratops was made.

Furious Gore
Conjuration (Creation) [Force]
Level: Vsh2
Components: V, S, F
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target: One creature
Duration: 1 round + 1 round/level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes

This spell conjures up a four-foot-long triceratops-like horn made of magical energy. It lunges toward the indicated target and gores repeatedly until the spell expires.

You must succeed at a ranged touch attack to hit your target. Roll anew each round. (For reference, a normal raptor shaman has a base attack bonus of +3 simply for being a velociraptor, plus attack bonuses for its level and Dexterity.) A successful hit causes 1d8 points of damage.

Focus: A triceratops horn.

Way of the Pteranadon

Level: Vsh1
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target: One creature of size Large or smaller
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

Drop simulates the fly-high-and-drop attack of the pteranadon. The target is jerked vertically straight into the air, then dropped suddenly for falling damage. The target can be raised up to 10 ft. for every caster level. As with all falling damage, the Drop causes 1d6 damage per 10 ft. of the fall, with a soft surface (such as mud) reducing the first 1d6 points to subdual damage.

First-level casters can only Drop Large or smaller creatures. For each additional caster level, the caster can Drop creatures of one higher size class, but at 10 ft. less. For example, a second-level caster can Drop a Large creature up to 20 ft., or Drop a Huge creature 10 ft., but can’t move Gargantuan or larger creatures.

Lizard Wings
Level: Vsh2
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature touched
Duration: 10 minutes/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

Lizard Wings grants the ability to fly exactly as the Fly spell, but with some limitations. 

The subject is physically transformed into a pseudo-pteranadon. Its arms lengthen, one finger or claw elongates substantially, and a film supported by several membranes grows from its torso to the tip of its fingers. In effect, its arms are transformed into pteranadon wings. It has difficulty grasping objects and suffers a –6 circumstance penalty to Dexterity and Strength when using its hands and arms for tools, weapons, or natural attacks. Its flight is contingent on the use of its new wings; anything that entangles or disables them prevents it from flying. It can still use its legs normally. Velociraptors’ killer claws are on their feet, so raptors with Lizard Wings can still fight normally with their claw and rake attacks.

Subjects that normally walk on four legs are slowed down by their new arm structure. For the duration of the spell, they move at half speed when on the ground.

New Magic Items

Velociraptors make only limited use of tools. Their minds can build complex stratagems, but their thumb-less hands can build only simple mechanisms. Raptor tools consist of spears, clubs, rocks, mortars and pestles, sacks and bladders, and other devices without moving parts.

As a result, velociraptors do not create sophisticated magic items. They don’t wear armor, and they rarely use manufactured weapons. Shamans who create magic items do so within the established shaman tradition by mixing magical potions and powders. But raptors are unadulterated carnivores, so a raptor "potion" often takes the form of a big chunk of raw meat sprinkled with a magical powder. The meat is meant to be chewed and swallowed as a human would drink a potion. The effect is the same, but the delivery is quite different!

Other magical items are fashioned from natural objects. Enchanted teeth, skulls, horns, leg bones, skins, seashells, stones, and gems are common. Raptors do wear jewelry, so magical rings, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets are not unheard of, though they are always very simple and unadorned.

Here are some common raptor magic items.

Silverclaw Sheath: Silverclaws are raptors whose natural claws have been replaced with metal prosthetics. The replacement version is stronger, sharper, and more dangerous. Sometimes this is done through surgery; other times, magic is involved. The silverclaw sheath is a magical method. Placing this simple claw-shaped sheath over a natural claw transforms the claws or fingers of the bearer into razor-sharp metal claws. These silverclaws cause an extra +2 damage for each claw – on a raptor, this increases damage from a claw attack to 1d3+4 and a rake attack to 2d6+8.

Caster Level: 6th; Prerequisite: Craft Wondrous Item; Market Price: 4,000 gp.

Crimson Claws: The image of a bloody red claw has special significance to raptors: it is the symbol of a successful hunt. Crimson claws are magically enchanted dinosaur claws (usually from some sort of powerful carnosaur, like an allosaur or tyrannosaur) that are stained a deep crimson color. They fuse to the bearer’s natural claws on command, granting him an attack bonus for all claw and rake attacks. The attack bonus varies from +1 to +3.

Crimson claws are produced by shamans and given as gifts to chieftains in the hopes of a good hunt. Sometimes a particularly prolific shaman will make several sets for all the top-ranking males in the tribe.

Crimson claws can be fused to the hands of non-raptors, too; they grant a bonus to whatever natural hand or claw attacks the creature has.

Caster Level: Bonus times three (e.g., +1 crimson claws require third level caster); Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor; Market Price: Per weapon bonus.

Arms of the Elasmosaur: The long-necked elasmosaur is the terror of the seas, and raptor shamans have long admired its ferocity. The Arms of the Elasmosaur is a traditional raptor magic item. It appears to be a string of elasmosaur vertebrae that have been sewn together with a leather cord. There is a leather loop at each end of the cord. By hooking a claw from each hand in the loops and tying the "spine" to its arms, the raptor can wear the strung-up vertebrae sort of how a human woman would wear a feather boa.

Someone wearing Arms of the Elasmosaur gains the ability to strike from a long distance, just like an elasmosaur. Their reach for all attacks is doubled. When they strike, their arms actually extend briefly to gain the extra reach.

Caster Level: 5th; Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor; Market Price: +1 bonus.