May 3, 2015

Wonder & Wickedness: A Review

I splurged and picked up a ton of stuff from Drivethrurpg.com a few days ago to read. Expect reviews of River of Heaven, Silent Legions, the Basic Illusionist, Beyond the Wall: Further Afield, and Yoon-Suin to come down the pipeline. I'm writing these reviews basically in the order that I go back and read them again more carefully.

First is Wonder & Wickedness, which is an 88 page pdf (also available in print) detailing a new magic system by Brendan S. (of Necropraxis fame) that's compatible with most versions of old school D&D. Full disclosure: I bought the book on my own dime, I've gamed with Brendan S. twice in Courtney Campbell's Numenhalla game about a year and a half or so ago, and he's occasionally mentioned stuff from this blog kindly. On the other hand, he has never once shown up for a session of Necrocarcerus despite being invited every time, so you can expect this review to be a forty-thousand word denunciation of his personal shortcomings (feel free to use that as the pull quote).

The organisation and layout are pretty decent. The book has 56 new spells, listed both in alphabetic order and by specialty, with an index at the back listing them by page number. There's a light sprinkling of grammatical errors, but nothing that obscures what the text means at any given point. The art is good - lots of evocative line drawings that are busy with detail showing the various spells being cast by wizards, and the various magical items. The text is clear and legible, in a large-size serif font that remains readable when displayed as facing pages on a screen (since getting physical copies of this book involves sending away to Italy, its legibility on-screen is an important factor for me). There's a lot of white space at the tops of pages, some of it of irregular size, that looks like an artifact of using desktop publishing software to format the document, but it's not particularly galling or bothersome. Unfortunately, there's no index of magic items.

The key point of differentiation between the Wonder & Wickedness system and traditional D&D magic is that spells do not have levels. Some spells increase in power as the sorcerer does - affecting more targets, or allowing you to summon more powerful creatures - but it's a flatter progression than traditional D&D magic-users have. Sorcerers also have far fewer spells readied (just one per level, though they may know more spells than they have slots to cast and choose which ones they have memorised). Sorcerers may also dispel / block spells or deal damage directly to an enemy by sacrificing memorised spell slots, whereas the magic-user has specific spells they must memorise to do those things. Magic is also split up into different specialties / schools than the abjuration, conjuration etc. of traditional D&D. The spells are well-charactised, distinct, and make sense, as do the specialties.

Really, the highest praise I can give this book (or any RPG book really) is that once I was done reading it, I immediately started trying to figure out how to integrate it into my campaign. Necrocarcerus intentionally only incorporates free resources into the rules document as part of its design, but this was the book that nearly made me break that rule.