Showing posts with label magic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label magic. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spell Research

It's August and the theme of this month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Kobold Press is all about Magic!

Today I want to talk about something I am very much involved in right now. Spell Research.

One of the more nebulous rulings in *D&D covers research new spells.  Across all versions of the game there are spells named after various wizards and magic-users.  Some have real world significance such as Otiluke, Rary, Mordenkainen, and Melf.   Others represent historical or mythical figures.  But all have the implication that this spell was created by or named for these spell-casters.  So someone had to write them.

There are thousands of D&D spells. I think my 2nd Ed database (in Microsoft Access 97) has 3000+ spells.  I know the 3rd edition has to be more; there are about 2000 attributed to Pathfinder alone.  A project I am working on now tells me that my own OSR witch books have 700+ unique spells.

Someone had to write all of these.
Someone that is other the authors of these games and books.  Someone in the game itself. (But both are true).

So what are the hows and whys of Spell Research?

Why Should a PC Spell Caster Research a Spell?
This one is the easier of our two questions.  Why? Lots of reasons. The PC might want some new effect or magic not listed in PHB.  Say they want to cast "Frost Ball" instead of "Fire Ball" because they are more fond of cold based attacks and not fire ones.  Maybe the new spell comes about as part of other magical research. Maybe it was a total accident while casting a spell and not having the material components on hand or even a poorly memorized spell.
There are a number of in-game reasons.  In Ghosts of Albion, spells are cast based on Success Levels.  If a character casts a spell and gets really high successes on it then sometimes something new can happen.  I would give the same sort of ruling to D&D sorcerers and bards, they do something strange and a crazy new spell effect happens.  But that is an accident, what about doing that on purpose.

The most compelling reason, of course, is need.

Take a look at my witch (not important that it is a witch just yet) spell "Moonstone".  This spell stores moonlight.
Moonstone
Level: Witch 1
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 day per witch level
The witch can store moonlight in a small stone. The stones must be enchanted and then exposed to moonlight. Each stone will last 1 day per caster level unless discharged. Once invoked, the moonstone will shed soft light, equal to torchlight, and give off no heat. The moonstone does not affect low-light vision and does not cause damage to creatures that would normally be affected by light.
Note: Despite the wich's level, no Moonstone can last past the full cycleof the moon. So if moonlight is stored during a full moon then it will only last till the first night of the next full moon. If the witch's level is less than the number of days to the next full phase then the spell ends then.
Material Components: A bit of moonstone and the light of the moon.
(Special thanks to +Paolo Greco for pointing out some errors on this spell.)
Why do I need this spell?  I mean it's only first level, but a torch is cheaper.  Also, it is actually LESS effective than the first level spell Light.  You can't cast it into someone's eyes to blind them.
The reason here is need.  Moonstone is a fine spell all on it's own. But it's true value comes when paired with other spells.
Spells like Moon’s Heart (finding the time and direction, 1st level), Witch Writing (writing that can only be read by moonlight, 3rd level) Moonlit Way (finding the safe path, 4th level), and Moonbow (create a weapon out of moonlight, 6th level) all need moonlight to work.  Not something that can happen easily underground OR during the daylight hours.  Unless, of course, you have a fully charged Moonstone.

Another need is maybe less defined.  Back in the 3e days, I created a Prestige Class that had as a part of their requirements the applicant had to submit a new spell for the use of the other members of the Class.

Plus there is always the challenge and joy of discovery. Spells like Wave of Mutilation and Brigit's Flame Sheet were created just for the sheer joy of it.

I think this holds true for any sort of Arcane spellcaster.  What about clerics? druids? Heck, even witches!

Clerics & Druids
In the 3.5 SRD is says that Divine Casters can research a spell much like Arcane Spellcasters can.   But that section only says "A wizard also can research a spell independently, duplicating an existing spell or creating an entirely new one."
That's not really a lot to go on.
More to the point why would they do it?  I mean aren't clerics supposed to be given their spells by their gods?  Does it make sense that a cleric would tell his god "hey, look I know you are busy, but instead of light can you give me a spell that casts moonlight instead?"

It does if you think of clerical spells like a liturgy or even a sermon.  Think of modern day priests, preachers and other people of the cloth.  They have their holy books. They have some sermons and prayers they have always done (common book of prayer for example), some hymns that have been used since the middle ages and so on.  But they also write a sermon, sometimes a new one, each week.  The purpose is to take divine inspiration, common language, and new ideas to make something new.
Now. Truth be told Clerics (and Druids) should get a set amount of "spell levels" of power to work with an then they can perform their miracles as needed.  That might be a little too much like Mage for most D&D players' taste (but it would be fun to try it!).  From this perspective, even a tradition bound "old" class like the druid could invent new spells.   In theory, an all knowing god should know which spells to give when.  For this reason, I do allow clerics and druids to swap out spells on the fly.  Much like how D&D 3 introduced the idea of spontaneous healing magic.

But what about witches?

Witches
This is an 8th level Ritual Spell for witches.
Depending on my mood and the book in question witches can either be Divine or Arcane spellcasters. Typically I think of them as Witches.  The magic they use is Witchcraft. It has both Divine and Arcane aspects.  They learn their magic from their Patron, via a familiar, but record the spell formula in a spell book.   The underlined terms can have various meanings.  Take the girls from Charmed (why, you will see later).  Their Patrons are the past witches in their family line.  Each one learning more and more than and from the witches that came before. Their familiar in this case is their Book of Shadows.  Their spellbook is also their book of shadows.   In my Pathfinder Warlock book I have rules for a Book of Shadows that is spellbook AND familiar.

At one point in the show Charmed, the witches learn that they can also create new spells rather than just relie on the ones in their Book of Shadows.  It actually becomes a feature of the show where Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) is the sister with the best ability to come up with new spells. It is this ability they have that allows them to tap into greater and greater sources of their power.  One such spell summons the power of all their family witches to destroy what is essentially the Devil (Source of All Evil. But not without cost.)

Given this would I allow "10th level" spells?  That's a good question.  Most spells of significantly high level do a lot. A spell that powerful would need to be limited in other ways.

So that's the why, what about the how?

That depends on the edition.

1st Edition starts with some advice on page 115 of the DMG.  The hardest part of this is determining the level of the spell in question.  This is done only by comparing the spell to be created to others in the Player's Handbook.  +Bruce Heard expands on this in Dragon magazine #82 (more on that tomorrow!), but it does cover somethings not in the DMG that are important. Namely to properly stock your occult/arcane library.

An occult library.
For the moment let's assume that your character has the tools and books needed.  The time needed for research and materials is 200 gp per level per week.

2nd Edition covers much of the same ground, but with less information to be honest.  Even the amount spent is now only given as a range of gp.

3rd Edition and 5th Edition have similar advice on pages 95 and 283 (respectively). So similar in fact that it felt like I was reading the same text. Though they both give good advice on setting levels based on the amount of damage caused.  The numbers differ, but the logic is the same.

I could not find any Spell Creation or Spell Research rules in BECMI or 4th Edition.

So really. The level of the spell is largely a matter of guesswork and tradition.  I spend a lot of time, maybe too much time, trying to figure these things out.

Yeah. A lot.

Creating a Spell

I wonder if we can use what we know already to create a new spell.  This is one I am actually working on right now.  As I type these words the spell is not written, but it will be by the end of this post.

The spell is one I have thought about for a while. It allows a caster to make a perfect copy of another spell into a specially prepared spellbook.  I have decided that the spell needs the following.
A specially prepared but blank spell book. This will be 200 gp per the level of the spell copied. Following the rules above.  The quill used to scribe the spell has to come from the rare Giant Mimid Bird (or Dire Mockingbird if you prefer) and the ink is a rarer distillation of the ink of an octopus (not a squid).

The spell makes a duplicate so it is beyond Mirror Image or even Minor Creation since the creation is magical (in a sense).  It is less than Wish.  It is permanent, but more so than Permanent Image.
It can reduce the time needed to copy a spell down to hours from weeks, that is pretty powerful.
8th Level feels right, but I could go as low as 6th and maybe, just maybe up to 9th.

It's a new spell, so let's give it a name. My iconic witch is named Larina. I always imagined this was her spell.  Since it deals with the copying of spellbooks some form of Liber should be used. After all, aren't all spell books written in Latin?   Liberum works and that is a call back to my d20 Witch book.  Since the words are being set free then Libre is also good.  Alliterations are always fun.
So let's go with Larina's Liberum Libre.

Larina is a witch, but this would be good for wizards too.
Let's try it in Basic-Era/S&W/OSR format.

Larina's Liberum Libre
Level: Witch 8, Wizard 8
Range: 1 Spellbook
Duration: Permanent; see below
This spell was named for the first witch to successfully use it to make a copy of another spellbook.  The spell requires a book of the same size, shape and page numbers of the spell book to be copied. The base cost for this book is 200gp per spell level copied.  Also needed are a special quill of a Giant Mimid Bird and distilled ink of an octopus. Both may be purchased, base cost of 100 gp, or prepared by the caster ahead of time.  The ink is used up in the spell casting, the quill can be used for 1d6+6 uses.
The blank book, quill, ink and the spell book to be copied are placed on a specially prepared cloth (not rare, just clean and white). The spell is cast and the cloth covers both books.  The spell will take 1 hour per spell level to copy.  Once complete the spell will create a perfect copy of the book in question.  If the spell is interrupted during this time; the cloth removed or either book opened, then the spell is canceled and the new book, ink, and quill are destroyed.
Note: Normal non-magical books may be copied as well, but only require normal ink and a regular book with the same number of pages.

Ok. So I like the spell, might tweak it a bit before publication. Still not happy with the guesswork involved with the levels.
I would love to develop a system like I did for Ghosts of Albion but that would take a time and the return might not really be worth it.

How do you go about researching spells? Both in game and in real life?



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lazy Sunday: Continuing Education Edition, Magic in the Middle Ages

It's Sunday. I am sitting here drinking my coffee and watching my son make sushi for lunch.
(Of course, I had some for breakfast!)

I saw another blog posting about a Coursera class on Magic in the Middle Ages.

For those that don't know, Coursera is an online MOOC, a Massive Oline Open Classroom. Professors from different universities around the world put up an online classroom to learn various topics.  They can be fairly fun and educational. I am a fan. (My second Ph.D. field of study was on how people build communities on learners online).  So I signed up.

The course is sponsored by the University of Barcelona ("Universitat de Barcelona") and taught by a team of professors and instructors.

It is a five-week course with video, discussions, reading and quizzes.  Now as a college professor myself I HATE quizzes for college age students, but for a MOOC you kinda need them.

The course looks like it is a lot of fun AND it is still open if you want to sign up as well.
https://www.coursera.org/learn/magic-middle-ages
Week 3, Magic to Witchcraft looks like the most fun for me.

The course is $49.00 (less if you have a code) or FREE if you opt for the non-certificate option.
I took the non-certificate choice. I really don't need any continuing education credits anymore.

I think it is going to be great.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Strange Magic 2

Interjection Games and Bradley Crouch are Kickstarting an update to their wildly successful Strange Magic called, appropriately enough, Strange Magic 2.



This book looks great and it will be for Pathfinder and D&D5, so that is cool and a nice value add in my mind.
They even have a preview up on RPGNow that you can grab as Pay What You Want.
Strange Magic 2 - Preview.  The Druid and Cartomancer look really cool.

Check it out!

---
I am up for an ENnie this year for Best Blog!
Please click on the link and vote "1" under "The Other Side".

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic

"The D&D and AD&D games are actually different games." p.74, The Book of Marvelous Magic.
This was not the first time I had read this, and by 1985 I had moved away from the D&D game to AD&D, it was still interesting to read this.  Back then we freely mixed the two systems without so much as a care.
So it was with some confusion then that when I picked up AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic that is proudly stated it was for the D&D AND AD&D games.  This was only emphasized more with the very first magic item listed, the Alternate World Gate.  AD&D was treated on the same level as Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and Boot Hill.

Confusion of compatibility issues aside, The Book of Marvelous Magic became one of my favorite and most frustrating D&D accessories.   Favorite because at this time I was serious into working on my witch class for AD&D/D&D and I was looking for guidelines on how magic items should be created.  I didn't find that here, but I did find a lot of inspiration.  Also, there were a lot of magic items in this book that later would become rather important in my own games for the next 2-3 years.
Frustrating because I never could get my gaming groups to embrace this book like I did.  I think it something to do with the punny names of the some of the items.  I now know that this was just something that was going on at the TSR offices back then (see I6 Ravenloft), but it made it difficult to take the book seriously at times.

The authors are listed as Frank Mentzer with Gary Gygax, but I think we all knew at the time that Mentzer did the lions-share of work on this.  The book covers the same span of characters (and same span of publication) of the Mentzer penned Basic, Expert and Companion Rules.  Living in my small town in Illinois I think this might have been the first reference I saw to the Companion ruleset.  Reading this book I am thinking that the Companion rules had just been written and the Master Rules had not. There are no references to the Master Rules and in places, the rules seem to put 36 at the top of the character achievement and in others, it was 26.

So what does this book have?  Well, there are over 500 new (at the time) magic items spanning 76 pages of text. The cover art is from none other than Clyde "I'll have the thigh" Caldwell and really grabbed my attention.  Not like that (though I was 15 at the time) but because she looked like a bad ass witch.


She even has a broom in the corner over there.  How could I NOT buy this book??

The magic items are divided by type, so for example under Armband there are five listed magical Armbands.  When a magic item needs to be listed, such a Bag of Holding, it is listed with a "see D&D Basic Set".  

The book did raise the question in our groups of who was creating all these magic items? That was never fully answered here or really anywhere for a couple more decades.  We opted that most of these were in fact fairly unique items.  So there were not a lot of "Buttons of Blasting" out there, but maybe one or two at best.

There are a few magic items here that I still have not seen in other (future) versions of D&D, so it is worth it just for those. It is also a great insight to the mid 80s D&D, a time when TSR was on top of the world, right before the big shakeup.  Also at the time I enjoyed tthis book, but largely ignored Mentzer's magnum-opus BEMCI D&D.  Reviewing both now as an adult I see I did all these books a large disservice.

What is in these books that gamers of today can use?  Well in truth, LOTS.
Really.  The book might as well say "Compatible with 5th Edition D&D" on the cover.  Hell. Change the trade dress and you could almost republish it as is with little editing.   Yeah remove references to Basic, Expert and Companion. Change some of the spell casting descriptions, but otherwise this is still a gem today as it was 30 years ago.

Time to re-introduce the Collar of Stiffness to my games!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Class Struggles: Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition

Image courtesy of Tenkar
It has been a while since I have done a Class Struggles post.  I knew I wanted to do something with Basic-era D&D and had a couple of ideas, but nothing 100% yet.   I ended up talking to +Vincent Florio about the newest version of Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition, due out June 3rd.
Now Vince knows me. He knows that I love new magic using classes as much as I love anything and a new "Holmes" Basic magic-using class is just too sweet to pass up.  So he sent a copy of the new book in exchange for an honest review.  Today I am only going to focus on the new classes, I'll say more about the book as a whole later on.

Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition (M&PDE hereafter) introduces two new magic-using classes, the Enchanter and the Shaman.  They join the classic Cleric and Magic-User.   There is a design choice here to keep the Magic-User over the more widely accepted wizard and I am 100% cool with that.  If you know any version of Basic D&D (Holmes in particular) you know what the MU is all about.  The XP progression tables are lesser for this MU compared to their Holmes, B/X, AD&D counterparts. But they are more in line with what a MU actually should need (see this post on my analysis of the MU/Wizard class).   So for this alone your MU is going to have a slightly different vibe to him.  

The max spell level in 5th, but that is not a big deal since the max character level in most cases is 12th.  Again, just because of who I am I might make it 13th.  (Come to think of it this might make a good game for my War of the Witch Queens campaign.)

The first new class is the Enchanter.  The enchanter follows a similar level progression and the same spell progression as does the Magic-User.   The enchanter does have a different spell list than the Magic-User as seen below:


They also learn their spells differently from a MU with a chance of a non-enchanter going insane after reading their spell books.   I like the *idea* of the enchanter and I would certainly play one. I think though I would do something to make them a bit more different than the Magic-User.   Given the mental nature of their spells I might make their prime stat Charisma or even Wisdom.  They have some really interesting spells here and I think a lot can be done with this class.   Just give it a little more to separate it from the MU.

Next up is the Shaman.  Now the Shaman is a real treat.  First it is a "primitive" type of spell caster, so their spells reflect that.


They also have Atonement and Spirit Guardian abilities.  Atonement gives them the ability to spiritually link to a weapon.   I have to admit the first thought I had was of Rafiki the baboon shaman from The Lion King.  Trust me, this is a good thing.   My only "house rule" I would add to this is that the Shaman's weapon acts as a magical weapon for purposes of hiting undead creatures. Not a +1 but more like a "+0".
The spirit guardian is a very interesting ability.  I don't think it would be game breaking if the spirit animal could attack as a 1HD monster, but it is a guardian afterall.  As a DM I would love to do a lot of cool things with this animal. Hell, it would make for a great "patronus" like spell.  Also I would have the shaman need to go on a "vision quest" to find their spirit animal.  Get all new-agey with it.
The shaman fills the same niche as does the druid in other OSR/D&D games, but is not really 100% the same thing.  This is good, a game could be run that has both druids and shamen in it and still be plenty for them both to do.

Which class to play will often be determined I think by their spell lists. If I were to play the Enchanter I might want to supplement some of his spells.  Maybe grab a few illusionist spells some more Enchantment spells from the 3.x SRD. The Shaman works great out of the box.
I would play both to be honest.   Heck, I have a "Basic" game coming up that might be interesting to try out one or both of these.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Zatannurday: Doctor Strange

The new Doctor Strange trailer came out this week.

Doctor Strange is easily my favorite Marvel character.
I liked the idea of this brilliant man of science and medicine thrown into a world he couldn't understand at first.

Plus all that 60's and 70's occult vibes to the early comics and art by Steven Dirko? Yeah that is right up my alley.

Now we have our first trailer out and I am excited as hell.







Looks like we are sticking pretty close to the classic Dr. Strange origin story here too.
Benedict Cumberbatch is opting for an American accent here, which tracks with Strange's character as being a New Yorker.   Tilda Swinton makes an interesting choice as The Ancient One, but a good choice in my mind. Plus we get Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Mordo no less!) and Rachel McAddams...that is some top shelf acting talent.

This is going to rock.

I hope though they keep the horror and occult themes I loved about this comic.
Say what you like about the failed Peter Hooten movie, it was some scary shit for 1978 TV.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Class Struggles: The Illusionist

It's a logical extension from my talks about wizards over the last two weeks to go right into illusionists. I have always been curious about the illusionist class and it's genesis. For starters it is one of the few classes that really only exists in AD&D first edition. Editions after that make the illusionist a "speciality wizard"; a type of magic-user/wizard/mage. It also didn't exist in OD&D or Basic D&D (with exceptions, that I will get too).

Last week and the week before I killed a lot of photons explaining that "magic-user" was a generic term for any sort of magic using character class. So wizards, necromancers, mages, witches and naturally one would assume illusionists would fall under this umbrella term. It is interesting then that the illusionist is viewed as so different to merit its own class.

My research has turned up the first mention of the Illusionist as coming from the pages of The Strategic Review - Volume 1, Number 4 from Winter 1975. That's pretty early on really. The article, ILLUSIONISTS!: GENERALLY APPEARING AS A NEW CLASS FOR DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was written by Peter Aronson. Though Gygax and Blume were still the editors, so it had their tacit approval, if not explicit. The opening to the article states:
Illusionists are a sub-class of magic-users who, as the name implies, employ illusion and similar powers. Their prime requisite is dual, in that they must have both a good intelligence and a dexterity of not less than 15 as a high degree of manual conjuration is involved when they cast their spells. Although severely limited in the number of magical items they can employ, Illusionists make up for this restriction by the power of their magic.
So in theory then it is harder to become an illusionist, but their magic is stronger.  I am not so convinced this is completely true. Afterall there is no fireball, lightning bolt or wish in their spell list. Sure there is more to magic than that, but a well placed fireball is still good to have.  Looking over the XP tables the Illusionist needs MORE xp than even the magic-user.

Peter Aronson comes back in no less an illustrious issue as The Dragon #1 from June 1976. Here more levels of the illusionist are listed and spells up to 7th level are detailed.  Here some of the more interesting and uniquely illusionist spells are introduced.  Here we also see that illusionists get a +4 to any saves vs. illusion or light based spells.  This is expanded on in The Dragon #12 by Rafael Ovalle. Here the illusionist is also given the chance to recognize any spell cast by another illusionist.  The spell lists have been tweaked a bit as well.

This was the same time frame that EGG was working on his Magnum Opus, AD&D.   Illusionists now appear in the Players Handbook as a subclass of the magic-user. They have their own XP values and spell lists separate from magic-users.  It is also noted that while only humans, elves and half-elves can become magic-users, gnomes can become illusionists.  The saving throw bonus has been dropped, but the XP values are now less than the magic-user.  The illusionist is still limited to 7th level spells, but many of the illusion spells it shares with the magic-user are usually a level lower.  Still, I have a vague memory of the magic-user being a better illusionist than the illusionist itself.  I can't find any tell-tale evidence of this.

The Illusionist and The Witch
At this point I want to point out something.  For the last two weeks I talked about the flexible nature of the magic-user and how, when played as intended, almost precludes the need for a separate witch class.   Then bam! here comes the illusionist to completely shake that idea up. Though it really only confirmed it my mind.   The illusionist was born in the pages of Dragon magazine, as was one of the many incarnations of the witch.  Plus there is this entry which we have all read before.


Yes, I know that the witch was added after the fact by persons unknown, but I was still promised witches.  But imagine for a moment if we had gotten a witch and illusionist class.  It is entirely likely you would not be reading this blog!
In fact, one of my first AD&D characters was a female illusionist named Cara that I styled as a witch-like character.  I pretty much based her on this art from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth by Bill Willingham.



Post AD&D 1st Ed
After this the Illusionist disappears as it's own thing really. In 2nd Ed it becomes a prime example of a speciality mage. The advantages of course are now the illusionist gets access to a wider variety of spells than before, but still less than the generalist wizard. In many ways this is a full realization of the "magic-user" concept. The same is true for 3rd edition. Personally I rather liked this idea since it fits in with the narrative of my idea of a magic school with different "Schools" of instruction.  Though on the other side of the coin is that this also took away some of the things that made the illusionist a unique class.  Some of that "uniqueness" has been taken over by the Sorcerer.  Yes, they are not the same thing, but both are compared, favorablly or ill, to the wizard.

The Basic Illusionist
No talk of the illusionist class can happen without talking about 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. You can get it from RPGNow, http://www.rpgnow.com/product/140543/The-Basic-Illusionist?affiliate_id=10748 or from his blog,  http://secretsoftheshadowend.blogspot.com/. In both cases it is 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.

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 bonus to saves when it comes to illusions. I like the original -4 (or +4) but as much as -1/+1 would be fine too.

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.

Other Clones
The design of the Illusionist class 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.

ACKS Player's Companion
The Gnomish Trickster has a number of good spells that work well for the Illusionist.  All the arcane spells tagged as (ill) for illusion would work nicely as well.  I will go out on a limb here and say the gnomish trickster is basically the "Basic" interpretation of the Gnome Illusionist.

Adventures Dark and Deep
+Joseph Bloch's own magnum opus and dedication to a game that never was is also a good place to look for any ideas on class evolution.  I have to admit I am curious what he uncovered about the illusionist in his own research.  Why was the class included and so on. His game has both an illusionist and a mountebank classes.  Not to mention plenty of illuison spells.  This book also retains the link between gnomes and illusionists, in this case the Deep Gnome.  This illusionist feels very much like the 1st Ed or even the OSRIC Illusionist.

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 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 covers many more spells but more importantly it has the guidelines for covering how illusions in the game work.

The Companion Expansion
This is another "Companion" style book for Basic-era D&D and clones and is something of a forgotten treasure.  It also has an Illusionist Class that is roughly equal with the Basic Illusionist, but the real feature of this book is the expanded spell list.  If you are looking to extend your illusionist a bit more with more spells then this is a good way to do it.

Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion
Given it's aim to emulate AD&D via the Basic D&D-like rules it is no surprise then this illusionist cleaves very close to the source material. This is the illusionist of old.

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 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 Illusionist can use.  For starters there some more Illusionist spells in T&T that any Illusionist could use.  Both this book and the Basic Illusionist make the assumption that Illusionists should have access to 8th and 9th level spells.  If you are going to play an Illusionist then it is worth your time and effort to get a copy of Theorem & Thaumaturgy.

The Witch
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.

There is only two things I really want.
To combine all of this into one place and to have a bound book version.  I think it would be excellent.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Class Struggles: The Wizard, Part 2 The Wizard Class

Last week we discussed the Magic-User and his cousin the Wizard.  One thing seems certain, the Magic-User is a bit overpriced in terms of XP.  Also, and I am not the only one as we will see, the wizard lacks some powers he really should have.

One of the things I liked (back then) when 2nd Edition came out was that the Magic-User was now properly called a Wizard.  Again, the nuance of magic-user was lost on me but obviously it was also lost on the design team.
The wizard, as he for evermore will be known, is really not that different from the magic-user mechanically speaking.  Some spells are rearranged but that is about it.  The true difference comes when you choose a speciality school or apply a kit, like the many found in The Complete Wizard's Handbook.  Here the wizard gets a few more spells at starting level from their speciality school and the kit can provide them with some powers.   Though the cantrips as 0-level spells that the Unearthed Arcan gave us are now gone.

Yesterday I reviewed The Principalities of Glantri book and it's school of magic. What stood out for me was things that your wizards can now do if they go to a premier school like Hogwarts The Great School of Magic.  The Seven Crafts provide a bit of extra kick for magic-user characters.  Personally I think they could use something at 1st level as well.

Since I covered the basic (and really Basic) Magic-User last week, I want to jump into some of the clones and near clones now.

Spellcraft & Swordplay is a near clone that models Original D&D and it's Chainmail roots much closer than Swords & Wizardry does.  It does take some liberties though.   One is the Wizard and the wizard class elite paths, Warlocks and Necromancers.  In S&S wizards can Read Magic at 1st level.  We are also given more detail on how to create magic items.  An Elite Path like the Necromancer or Warlock also get other powers.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery also has a wizard class, as well as a wise man and a warlock.  Additionally, it also has 666 spells split up into gray, white and black magic.  The wizard here does not differ much from the standard magic-user, but the number of spells included is not insignificant.

Adventurer Conqueror King System gives us a similar looking Wizard, the advantage here are the skills/proficiencies that all classes get.  Going back to last week this is similar to the skill checks I give wizards when identifying magic.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts also has a wizard class. Many in fact.  The wizard is still a Magic-User clone, but there are plenty of other wizard types in this book that the case for experimentation is made here.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Ah now this is what I was looking for.  Each of the books so far has done a little here and little there, but the Magician in AS&SH is waht I have really been looking for.  Right away he gets a familiar, the ability to read magic and scribe a scroll. At 7th level he learns som alchemy.  The subclasses, Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer and Witch all get similar powers.

Moving out from clone-land and into old-school land proper there is The Arcanum.  I keep coming back to this book because it keeps on delivering.  There are a lot of magic-user like classes, Alchemist, Astrologer, Charlatan (more of a thief), Enchanter, Mage, Magician, Necromancer, Savant, Sorcerer, Thaumaturge, and Witch.   There is, of course, a Wizard as well.  What they all have in common and share with some other books is the ability to read magic at first level.
These classes all also get new powers at every odd level.  Some are just redefining things the wizard could always do; write scrolls, make potions and magic items.  This just defines them a little better.  Interestingly this book also allows the wizard to choose a weapon.  The book also has plenty of spells to choose from.

It should be noted that these problems are solved by 3rd Edition and beyond.  Both the shared XP values across all classes and more features for the Wizards has made all the above points moot really.

My recommendations for the wizard are:
  • Cantrips
  • Read Magic/Identify magic as a skill at 1st level.  Can be a simple Int check.  A bonus equal to level with a penalty equal to spell level.
  • Find Familiar as a ritual, but not a spell.
  • Signature Spells. A spell that can be cast twice or three times per day with one memorization.
  • Some powers at 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th level.  Signature Spell can be one of these.
I would group powers along something like Arcane Traditions like I do for the Witch and like D&D5 does, save I would call them something else.  Schools maybe.  I already use "Philosophies" in Ghosts of Albion so I would not want to use that here.  Schools are good since I can go beyond "enchantment" or "necromancy" and into things like "Miskatonic Grad" or "Apprenticed under Mordenkainen", that sort of thing.

I would run this wizard through the various class creation kits I mentioned last week, but especially the one out of the ACKS Player's Companion to check the numbers.  Might be worth looking into deeper.

Why Are my Magic-Users not like Mages?
Spend any time in any other game but D&D, especially one that uses a lot of magic, and somethings just don't make sense.  Except as that special branch of logic known as D&D logic.  Being first D&D gets away with a lot. Invariably someone will ask though why can't D&D magic be more like the magic in World of Darkness, namely Mage.

The difference, of course, is one of scope. While the D&D wizard might become a "master of reality" the Awakened of Mage are of a different sort. The assumptions of the worlds are too different.   Maybe a WoD style Mage could be something the D&D Wizard could aspire to be, I still would not take a Mage with me into a dungeon or try to identify a scroll or potentially magic sword.
So I don't try to make my Wizards into Mages.  I keep the Vancian magic intact.  If I want to play a Mage, I will pick up Mage.   But really, playing both games will give you a better understanding of things your wizard/mage can do in either game.

Hopefully your wizards are more like this:




Than this:



Though that Keep at 3:30 looks familiar.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri

Still spending a lot of time thinking about witches, wizards, schools of magic and witch queens.  So naturally my thoughts turn to +Bruce Heard's masterpiece, GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri.
I have mentioned Glantri here a few times. It was the homeland for my characters back in my D&D/AD&D days.  I built up the country from the small bits of information from D&D Expert Set, Isle of Dread and Castle Amber.  It was not till much later I discovered the Gazetteer series and picked up Glantri that I discovered how really interesting and fun the place was.

GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri
The pdf is 102 pages (the original book was 96 pages, a detached cover and large map of the country and Glantri City).  The PDF is a good quality scan and retains all the information found in the print book.   The cover art was done by the fantastic Clyde Caldwell.  While this book is a D&D "Basic" book, there is so much here of use that it can really be used with any D&D system.  This book really set the stage for all the other Gazetteers to follow.
The first part, Welcome to Glantri, gives a very brief overview of what the country is and what this book sets out to do.
Up next is the History of Glantri. I spent hours and hours reading this over and over.   I won't go into great detail, but linking Glantri to ancient Blackmoor was wonderful in my mind. Mostly because I loved the link but also I had done something similar for my own games.  What follows next is a time line from 3000 BC, The Rain of Fire* (Before Crowning of the first Emperor of Thyatis)  to 1000 AC (today) and even on to 1200 AC.  *I always wondered if the Rain of Fire that destroyed Blackmoor was related or even just the same spell that destroyed the Suel in the Greyhawk world.
Geography of Glantri is next.  Like much of Mystara, Glantri is a mix of all sorts of races and people, but Glantri also has it's fair share of "monsters" those will be detailed later.  Glantri's climate is also touched upon, making it one of the colder lands.
The is followed by The Glantrian Economy. I really enjoyed this section because it really breathes life into the people that live here.  Each of the Principalities is detailed here for the first time.  A quick read and one immediately recognizes analogues to Scotland, Italy, France, and even Transylvania. Glantri is very cosmopolitan.  We move into the Grand Army of Glantri and Politics and Rivalries of Glantri.  Glantri is the place to play out political intrigue where everyone is mage of some sort or has one on retainer.  Like the Economy section, this section breathes more life into the people of the land, in this case all the great houses.   I will admit once again that the interior art by Stephan Fabian links this to Ravenloft in my mind.  Not only are there humans here, but vampires, werewolves and liches ruling.  We will get to witches in a bit.
Guilds and Brotherhoods are also one of the more important features of this book and life in Glantri.  There are so many here that characters could each belong to many and none overlap.  Some are complimentary to each other and others at cross purposes.  Really good fodder for role-playing.
Glantri City by Night details what happens to the 39,000+ residents when the sun goes down. The book is like a what we now call Modern Supernatural.  So all sorts of "monsters" come out and mingle with everyday people.  It says "by Night" but really this an overview of the city itself and all it's sections.  It reminds me of a travel guide to London I once read, so I am rather fond of this section.
Living in Glantri City details life in the city including the laws, who is in charge, magic use and various holy/high days. There is no religion in Glantri, but there is a state philosophy. Of course it is tied in with magic.
The Great School of Magic.  Outside of Hogwarts or Professor Xavier's school has a school been so rich detailed. Though there is enough here to make me want more, a lot more.  This is followed by Creating Spells and Magical Items and The Secret of the Radiance. The source of Glantri's magical power.
Nest we get into The Seven Secret Crafts of Glantri.   If you only buy this book for this section then you will be well rewarded.  Think of these as schools or even colleges of magic. Each one ads something special to the Magic-User class, almost like a Prestige Class or Paragon class feature.  They include, Alchemy, Dragon magic, Elemental magic, Illusion, Necromancy, Rune magic, and of course, Witchcraft.
We wrap up with Adventures in Glantri.

The Gazetteer series were works of art and none more so than the Glantri book.

I mentioned before that this book would work fine with other versions of D&D.  Looking deeper into the Seven Secret Crafts of Glantri, one could EASILY replace the Arcane Tradition feature of the 5th Edition Wizard and replace those powers with the craft powers.  The 5e wizard gets 4 Arcane tradition powers/features and the Basic craft wizards get 5. They work out to about the same levels too.

So if you have not picked this up, do so. I highly recommend it.

I also recommend Bruce Heard's latest Calidar kickstarter Beyond the Skies.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ambreville/calidar-beyond-the-skies

Calidar is a load of fun and this promises to be great.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Class Struggles: The Wizard, Part 1 Customizing Options


Posting about the Dresden Files yesterday and talking about psychics, witches and other classes has got me thinking about Wizards and Magic Users today. In truth you can't read, write and think about witches as much as do and not have wizards come up every so often.

In many fantasy genres wizards and witches are very nearly the same thing (and let's not get into what is a warlock today). While I can see the subtle differences as huge gaps I do appreciate that this might really just be my own biases.

When I first began to play D&D (Holmes and then Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X) I saw the "Magic-User" class. I always wondered about that. Why was it called "Magic User" and not "Magician" or "Wizard"? I will be honest and say it was not till years later that I fully appreciated what Gary was doing with the "Magic User". It really was meant to be ANY type of magic user. While I can really see the utility of this sort of class it still doesn't give me the customization that I really wanted in a magic-user/wizard class. For starters the biggest and best means of customization for any magic using class is the spell list. Build a magic user, take a bunch of necromantic spells and bingo you have a necromancer, take illusions and you have an illusionist. This is certainly implicit in the rules, if not explicit in some older Dragon magazine articles.

During the work on my witch class I began creating a lot of custom classes. These include some I have mentioned before: The Necromancer/Mara, the Sun Priest, and the Healer. These all kind of rotate around an axis related to the cleric. While working on them I really could not help but notice what powers and spells I was giving them vs. what the magic-user already had. Also I could not help but recognize the disparity in XP per level. It takes a lot to be a magic-user. The argument has always been that it pays off in then end, if you survive.
This disparity was also noticed by others.

Dragon Magazine #109 from May 1986 gave us Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's "Customized Classes" article for the D&D (not AD&D) game. The idea was that the D&D game supported this sort of flexibility. I used this for the first set of XP values per level for my witch, but altered them to something I liked better for the publication of The Witch. Others have picked up on this article as well.

The Dragon article goes into a lot of great detail and my hat is off to Paul Crabaugh for going through all this effort. He made it really easy to add everything to a spreadsheet and auto calculate XP values.
His analysis of the magic-user is quite telling.

Magic User XP per level, per Dragon Magazine #109

Current Level XP Points needed Next Level
1
1,840
2
2
3,680
3
3
7,360
4
4
14,720
5
5
29,440
6
6
58,880
7
7
115,000
8
8
230,000
9
9
345,000
10
10
485,000
11
11
606,250
12
12
727,500
13
13
848,750
14
14+
+121,250
per level

Magic-users, when analyzed come up really short.

Erin Smale over at Breeyark.org took the original Dragon values and worked out a spreadsheet of his own in Building the Perfect Class. His numbers track a lot better than Crabaugh's do, but the magic-user still comes up very short. He provides both a PDF and an Excel file to help in building. My biggest peeve though he no where acknowledges the work done by Crabaugh in this even though there are distinct parallels. He does address this though in his update, Building a More Perfect Class.

A while back Perdustin over at Thoul's Paradise posted a reflection on the Crabaugh article and got me thinking about the custom classes I had made then. Later he posted a little on his analysis of the classes with his tweaks. Here are his posts:
Customized Classes (part I) and
Customized Classes (part II)

He challenged me to look at my witch class as well.

In this case as the previous ones, the Magic-User comes up a little short.

Thoul's Paradise analysis

For me the solution is obvious since it also addresses the issue I have with magic-users in classic D&D games. It's not that their XP is too high, it's that there is so little for them to do in the beginning.

Think about every wizard stereotype; an old man, with white hair, beard, pointy hat and robes. Just page through any pre-1985 D&D book and see if you can find something different. Ok. Now what can these old guys do? Cast magic missile once per day. Honestly that doesn't make much sense to me. If these guys have been training at wizard school since they were young they should have learned more magic by now. Hell, Hermione knew more magic on the train to Hogwarts before school ever started than what your average 1st level magic-user knows.

I know classic D&D is about "resource management" and that struggle upwards. I am not suggesting that we play O/B/AD&D magic-users like D&D4 wizards (but I am going to talk about them next week). I do think the wizard needs a little more punch.

Using the same rules in my Witch book I give Wizards (a sub-class or type of Magic User) the ability to cast cantrips (up to 6 at 1st level, 3 + Int mod), the ability to cast Read Magic once per day, that ability to identify magic items (only that they are magic, not what they do). They may also cast a Find Familiar spell. Remember, in 3rd Edition D&D wizards got a familiar for free at 1st level and no reduction in spells.

Find Familiar (Spell)
Level: Wizard (Magic-user) 1
Range: 1-mile radius per caster level
Duration: See below
Magic-users of higher level often summon familiars to assist them with various tasks. Indeed, a familiar can also be of considerable benefit to a lower level magic-user (even increasing others’ estimation of his or her power), but the risks inherent in losing a familiar can be daunting to a weaker spell caster. To summon a familiar, the magic-user must intone the words of the spell over a well-stocked fire source, sprinkling the flames with expensive incense and powders (100 gp in total value). The caster must maintain his or her casting for as long as necessary (2d12 hours) until a familiar arrives (or the casting time expires without success).
The spell may be attempted only once per year, and the caster has no control over the type of animal that will respond. When it arrives, the familiar is a faithful servant and ally to the caster.
Normal familiars have 1d3+1 hit points, AC 7, and are as intelligent as a lower-than-average human. When the familiar is within 120 feet of the magic-user, the magic-user gains additional hit points equal to the familiar’s. However, if the familiar is ever killed, the magic-user permanently loses twice the familiar’s hit points.

For me the Read Magic and the identifying of magic items (based on an Int + Level check) sets the magic-user apart from not only other classes, but the witch as well. I decided that this was part of their training and experiences in school. I should also detail some of my ideas for a magic school but that would have to be for another time.

Next week a deep look at wizards and magic users with these customizations and XP values in mind.

Friday, August 28, 2015

RPG a Day 2015, Day 28

Day 28: Favorite Game You No Longer Play

There are actually a few.

I would have to say Mage: The Ascension.



I didn't play a lot of it, but what I did I really enjoyed.  Have not had the chance to play it the last 10 or so years.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Zatannurday: Constantine is Back!

Sort of.

Here is Constantine star actor Matt Ryan explaining.





Constantine is coming to the CW's Arrow, which for season 4 I have heard will be called "Green Arrow".

Here is another link, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/matt-ryan-constantine-arrow-814661

I am mostly avoiding spoilers, but this looks like it will be awesome and it is something that Stephen Amell, Oliver Queen himself, has wanted for a while now.   Adding John to the mix, even for one episode, changes or rather broadens Arrow's world.  We got super-science in season 2 and some magic in season 3.  Looks like season 4 might embrace the wakiness that is the DC Universe's magical realms.

Of course I have to ask...When will Zatanna be on?



Monday, August 10, 2015

Magic Schools in your Games

I was thinking a bit about Schools of Magic today.  Not the schools in the D&D sense, but more in the classical sense of a place to go and learn magic.

Have any of you detailed magic schools in your games?

There are plenty of examples in history, folklore and media.  I have used the Scholomance in my games for many years, but it is a small, elite school taking only 13 students at a time (and keeping one of them!).  On the other end of the equation I have also used the magic school from Glantri as a model.

For many of my witch characters or NPCs I have usually backgrounded something like a home school environment.  But I never have really built anything formal.

I like the idea of a game with younger heroes.  I already mentioned I'd love to do a Harry Potter game, or even a Charmed game (which also had a magic school).  You can have your normal high school drama complicated by everyone also having magic.

The problem with this is that D&D wizards (and all spell casters really) start out as really weak.  In most versions of D&D they only know one spell at first level.  So what did they learn in school?  
The old 2nd Edition Wizard's Handbook covers some of this, but copying your master's scrolls is not really fertile ground for role-playing.

There are cantrips that kind of get around this, but even knowing 6 cantrips is not much to do anything with.   But personally I have often thought that magic-users should be starting the game with more than one spell.

Maybe Magic School is something they do between adventures, not just something they start when young and then go out and adventure, but something they do and then adventure in between terms.
Then characters keep going back till something like 6th level.   I'll have to think about it.

What are your thoughts?


Monday, June 1, 2015

Magic Girls Monday

A couple of products came up on my radar. Since I had some credits burning a hole in my pocket over at RPGNow I figured I'd pick them up.

These games are all of the "magical girl" type in one way or another. So if you like stories like W.I.T.C.H., Sailor Moon, or even Steven Universe then these are good choices.  The systems under the hood is different in each case, but there are some familiar names here.

Star Sailors: The Magical Girl Supplement for White Star RPG
Oh, this one is a fun.  This little book (11 pages, including cover and OGL) is packed full of great material.  Basically this presents a Magical Girl class, the Star Sailors.  Each level the Star Sailor gains a "Heart Power" of a different color. Very cool.  They also get a "Starlight Blast" that is blasted out of her "Star Sailor Starlight Wand".  I know this all sounds silly, but trust me, this is exactly the sort of thing you would see in a Magical Girl show or book.  I also love how each power has a catchphrase.  I would totally make my players say these to activate each attack.
The powers are described, with effects. Also some background on the Starlight Entity.  The sailors also can have mascots, aka pets.
There is also a great monster/big bad for the sailors to fight, the appropriately named "Gloom".
While the book is overtly for White Star it includes some ideas for Modern Times and S&W.
Really, really fun.  The art also really fun and appropriate.
Don't like Magical Girls?  You could, with minor tweaking, turn this into a Green Lantern like organization.

Witch Girls Magical Minutia: Crossover
This book for Witch Girls Adventures previews a bit of the rules we will see in WGA 2.0 and the upcoming super hero games from Channel M. WE are introduced to Nemsis Earth, an Earth populated by superheroes and some differences in history.  Chapter 1 covers the details of this new Earth and it's features, both magical and tech.
The book is presented from the point of view of a Witch Girl travelling across the dimensions.
There are plenty of new equipment for Witch Girl stars and even a new heritage (Half-Metahuman).
Chapter 3 covers Channel M's new "Youthquake" team of superpowered teens.
The general feel of this "Crisis on Two Earths" and honestly I really like that. I wish I had had this back when I was working on Season 3 of my Willow & Tara game where I crossed over to a super powered Earth that resembled the Earth int he DC universe.  While reading this I was also wishing I had an Icons version of this.  Same ideas, characters and text, but Icons as the rules.  They would mesh together rather nice I think.
If you are a fan of supers and Witch Girls Adventures then this is a good buy.
One issue. I hate to bring this up, really. I love Malcolm's work but he should really hire a good proofreader and editor to help clean up his work.  That leaves him to focus on the big ideas and let others do the editorial work.

Sparks of Light
At 110 pages this is the largest of the books I have picked today. No surprise, this is a complete system-sort of.
Sparks is a light hearted game of Magical Girls. I uses the Fate system, but it can be used as a guide for any magical girl game regardless of system.
I think the most important thing about this book is how do the characters relate to each other and too the NPCs.  This is the key feature of any magical girl story whether or not it is Sailor Moon, W.I.T.C.H., Cardcaptor Sakura or even Charmed.  It is the relationships that define the character.  Take someone like Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, he is (let's be honest) useless. But he does have relationships to the rest of the cast and that makes for drama.  Would it make for a good game? No, maybe not, but consider Angel in the first season of Buffy. He was basically Tuxedo Mask.
I also really liked the Hope Points mechanic.  Magic Girls rarely see last death or injury (Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune not withstanding), so hit points don't really make a lot of sense.  Plus the Darkness is not about killing really. It's about snuffing out the light or hope of the heroes.
In this respect it might make it a better game for little kids.  Don't get me wrong, I have played D&D with grade-schoolers and they are a vicious, blood thirsty lot. But they don't have to be.
If you like Fate then is a good game to try out, especially given the price.
If you like Magical Girls then this is a must buy (even if some of this is covered in other books as well).

Personally I think Sparks of Life makes for a great addition to Star Sailors.  Get both books and use them together. Star Sailors for the basic game and ideas and then Sparks of Life to expand on them.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Theorems & Thaumaturgy

I was combing through some old posts this morning looking for some ideas for my "Second Campaign" (to be renamed soon) and I noticed that I have never really talked about +Gavin Norman's Theorems & Thaumaturgy on it's own.

Honestly that is criminal.

Let me start off with what I have said before. I have compared it to his other book, the Complete Vivimancer and I have compared it to The Basic Illusionist.  But never on it's own merits.

To start with Theorems & Thaumaturgy is a "Pay What You Want" product.  Yes you could pay $0.00, but I hope this review convinces you to pay more.  The book itself is 66 pages (standard letter) with text and art that reminds you immediately of the old Moldvay Basic books.  If you have The Complete Vivimancer then you have an idea  of the how the text and art looks.   To me the art is like psychadelic art-nouveau meets Elric.  In other words, perfect for a magic book in my mind.

There are three large sections (Classes, Variant Classes, and Magical Tomes) and an Appendix with nine sub-sections. Like old-school Basic the new spells are all listed with the classes.  The book is designed for use with Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Characters, but really it can be used with any sort of "old-school" game.

The new Classes are the Elementalist, Necromancer and Vivimancer.  The Vivimancer is of course detailed in a later book, but he gets his start here.  The classes do pretty much what you would suspect they would do.  The Elementalist uses elemental forces, the Necromancer deals with the dead and undead and the Vivimancer.  Each class has a good number of new spells (250 in all!) to make using them feel different than your normal "magic-user". Each has spells from 1st to 9th level.  All the classes use the Magic-User XP, to hit and saving throw tables, so whatever system you use, you can just use that to put them on the same footing as the Magic-User.  While I like the simplicity of this and it helps make the "subclasses" feel like a part of the same Magic-user family. I would have liked to have seen some powers or something for each class.  After-all they are sacrificing spell flexibility for what?  Power? More variety of spells in their chosen field?  I think I would have given them a couple of bonuses at least.  But that is fine, these rules are flexible enough to allow all sorts of edits.

For the variant classes there is the new Fey Elf race.  This elf is closer to the faerie origins of the elf.  The class taken by these elves is the Sorcerer.  This class is similar in idea to the D&D 3.0 version; a spontaneous spell caster with magic in their blood.  The sorcerer has a couple of new spells and a modified list of spells they can cast.  There is an alternate version of the Illusionist as well. This version has a few more spells and has 8th and 9th level spells.

The final section is all about magical tomes.  It includes a bunch of unique magical tomes with new spells. The books' histories are also told and which classes are most likely to get use out of it.

The Appendices are a small treasure trove of great ideas and useful material.
Appendix 1 has new optional rules for Magic-Users.  A number of these are very similar to house rules I (and many others I am sure) used back in the day.
This is followed by new monsters, new magic items, and some examples of memorized spells by class (all classes presented here and MU).  We end with an alphabetical list of all spells included here and in the Advanced Edition Characters book.

All of this for whatever you want to pay for it.
Personally I think anything less than $5 is an insult.  There is a lot of great material in this book and all of it can be used right away.

I should have more to say on this one later on.

You can also find print copies here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/necroticgnome

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Zatannurday: Zatanna at Hogwarts!

You might have noticed from my post yesterday that I have been rereading all the Harry Potter books.

Yeah they are for kids, but damn are they good.

This of course got me thinking about Zatanna and what she would have been like at Hogwarts.  Would she have been admired as a student? John Zatarra was well known and certainly his daughter would have been accepted even if she wasn't British.  Or maybe she would have been a guest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Here are some images of people who have wondered the same thing.










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