Friday, May 23, 2014

PWWO: The Basic Illusionist

Time for another edition of Plays Well With Others.

The one thing you can say about the entire OSR Gestalt that despite it all there is still a sense of community and of giving back.  Case in point, The Basic Illusionist.

The Basic Illusionist is the brain-child of +Nathan Irving and was first seen during the S&W Appreciation Day Blog Hop.

Go to his blog now and grab a copy.  Oh. Did I mention it was 100% free?

Before I delve into the book itself. Lets take a moment to look at this cover.
Seriously. That is a cool ass cover. I am not sure what made Nathan Irving choose this piece ("Beauty and the Beast" by Edmund Dulac) but I love it.  The title works in seemlessly, like they were meant for each other.  The woman in foreground is no longer the "beauty" but she is now an Illusionist.

Ok.  So the book is overtly for Swords & Wizardry, but there isn't anything here keeping you from using any Original of Basic inspired system.  I know it works out well in Labyrinth Lord and Basic D&D and it really should work well in ACKS, Spellcraft & Swordplay or any other system.  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea might be a trick, but they have an Illusionist class already (more on that later).

Getting into the book now we have 34 pages (with cover) on the Illusionist class. The book starts off with a helpful FAQ.  Personally I think Nathan should also put that FAQ on his blog as a page so every knows why they should get this.  The Illusionist class itself is in S&W format, but the only thing keeping you from using this in any other Basic or Advanced Era game is a table of Saving Throws.  Copy over what ever the Wizard or Magic-user is using in your game of choice and give them -1 bonus to saves when it comes to illusions.
The Illusionist gets a power or feature every odd level, but nothing that is game breaking when compared to the wizard.  The Illusionist trades flexibility for focus in their magical arsenal. There is even an Illusionist variant class called the Mountebank.  Which is more of a con-artist.  Not sure how it compares to other classes of the same name.

One of the best features of the book is a guideline on illusionist magic and how to play with illusions.  Great even if you never play the class.

What follows next is over 150 Illusionist spells.  Many we have seen before and come from the SRD.  That is not a bad thing. Having all these spells in one place and edited to work with the class is a major undertaking.  I for one am glad to see them here.  Spells are alphabetical instead of sorted by level.
A list of conditions ported over from the SRD is also included. I like that personally.  We all love how the older games and the clones play, but in our zeal we tend to forget that 3.x and later games did in fact have some good innovations and ideas; this is one of them.

We end with a couple of monsters and a two page OGL statement.

Really, this is a fantastic piece of work and really should be the "go to" document if you ever want to play an illusionist.

Playing Well With Others
The design of the Illusionist class (and the book) is such that adding it to any game should really be a breeze.  Adventurers enter a new land and discover a new brand of wizard.  Compared to other custom wizards out there the illusionist is more powerful than his counterpart in 1st Ed. AD&D.  This is not power creep in my opinion, I think Nathan has has actually fixed the classic Illusionist and brought it more in line with the Wizard.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
+Dyson Logos' Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts is an excellent book for playing all sorts of wizard types.  That is oddly enough except Illusionists.  This however is not issue; The Basic Illusionist fits in quite nicely here.  The Enchanter from MT&DP would have some spells that might be good for the Illusionist as well.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy
Another great free product. Theorems & Thaumaturgy comes to us from +Gavin Norman and introduced his Vivmancer class.  Vivimancers and Illusionists are about as different as one can get really.  But Theorems & Thaumaturgy does have some things that the Basic Illusionist can use.  For starters there some more Illusionist spells in T&T that the Basic Illusionist could use.  Both books make the assumption that Illusionists should have access to 8th and 9th level spells.  If you are going to play a Basic Illusionist then it is worth your time and effort to get a copy of Theorem & Thaumaturgy.
Nathan, I would talk to Gavin and see if you can use his spells if you ever expand your Illusionist book. Maybe toss over some elementalist spells his way if you have them.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
+Jeff Talanian's fantastic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea also has an Illusionist class. Like all the classes in the book it is limited to 12th level.  I had a quick glance over the spell lists last night and there wasn't anything that jumped out at me; the spells are drawn from similar sources.  There is is information though that owners of either could use. Obviously the Basic Illusionist cover many more spells but more importantly it has the guidelines for covering how illusions in the game work.

The Witch
Of course I want to mention my own book. Witches and Illusionists share the ability to cast various figments and charms/mind affecting spells.  I would say that in any game that has both classes that Illusionists should be limited to charm spells up to 5th level and witches any type of figments up to 5th level.  Illusionists then get all (or most) of the Illusion spells and witches get all the curses.

What I Would Want Next
I know. I sound greedy.  Nathan Irving works his butt off on this, puts it together and gives it away for free and I am over here saying "yeah, but do you have any more?"
But my motives are pure.

I would love a print version of this. It would really be awesome.  At 34 pages it is a bit smallish for print, but that is easily fixed.  Add a few more spells (plenty of OGC), some illusion based magic items, a couple more monsters (not a lot) an appendix for using this class in different retro-clones (LL, OSRIC, ACKS) and maybe even stats on adding gnomes as player characters.  Call it "The Complete Illusionist" sell it for a couple of bucks on DriveThru and get a print copy made.  OR Keep it free as a PDF and have print copies up on Lulu.  In any case it would look good on my "OSR" shelf. There is enough OGC out there now to do all of this in fact.  There is enough OGC in the 4 books mentioned above!

Bottom Line:  This is a great book. I loved the awesome art and the fact that it is free. Though I would have gladly paid for it.

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