Ahhhh, magic. Where would our fantasy role-playing games be without it? In a pretty good place actually, and one of the magical options presented in Warriors & Warlocks is to take magic out of the hands of the PCs and use it only as a GM-controlled plot device. This is particularly good if you’re running a “Swords against Sorcery” style campaign where our heroes are battling against the minion hordes of Pax Tharka clad only in loincloth and sandals. But there’s more.
The Magic chapter in W&W presents a range of options for how magic could work in your game; it’s up to the GM to pick one, some or all of them. At one end of the scale there’s the “just take the Ritualist Feat” option where casting magic is time-consuming, costly and best reserved for only skilled practitioners all the way through to variations on the Magic Power from the core Mutants & Masterminds book. Again, there’s not a lot of new rules in here – merely costed out tweaks to what’s already there. But it’s pure inspiration gold.
“The Efficacious Evocation of the Everbright Gate requires the nail clippings from a pregnant Wyvern taken during a summer solstice – you do have those, right?”
We have Magical Mastery where the caster pre-selects his “prepared” spells and can change them with an hour’s research or prayer. Each spell can be used as many times as you wish (unless you’ve limited them to reduce the points cost, of course). For example, a wizard with Magical Mastery 3 has 15pp worth of spells memorized – a Fiery Blast, a Shield and touch of Flight, for example. Give him an hour with his spellbook and he could replace those with a single Teleport should the need arise. The player and GM agree what spells he has written in his book, and he can transcribe others as they’re discovered. If you want, Divine magic could work just the same – just replace the words “research his spellbook” with “prays to his gods”.
Vancian magic, done right. Old schoolers, you need this book.
That’s one option. Next up is Sorcery. Your magic powers are innate, possibly due to birthright, bargaining with Higher (or Lower) Beings or a quirk of fate. You can take one Power and any Alternate Powers you wish to pay for, but using them is tiring. Each time you cast magic the player makes a Will save. Fail, and he’s Fatigued. There’s also the option that your Sorcery could be Corrupting, damaging your very soul and turning you to the Dark Side of the….. sorry, wrong genre. On the bright side, taking the Corrupting Flaw does make the points cost cheaper, so it’s not all bad.
There’s plenty more options, but if those two don’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what will :D
There’s magic, and there’s magical. W&W also provides ways to inject a little Magic into any character through clever use of low rank Powers. How’d you like to play a character with Godlike Presence (2 points per rank! cheap!) or Hunter’s Eye (Postcognition, requires a Survival check – just 2 points). My favourite is Riastradh – Warp Rage from Slaine which turns your character into a raging bestial creature akin to Hulk with porcupine quills. 25 points of unholy awesomenes. Mummy.
Want something a little more subtle? How about Wolf’s Ears for just 1 point. That extends your hearing range from 10′ to 100′. There’s a whole slew of examples which show how to use low-rank, low-cost Powers in your game to make it just a touch more magical. This wulf approves.
What you won’t find in the Magic chapter of Warriors & Warlocks are any spell lists. This might come as a disappointment to some, but makes sense given M&M’s open Power framework. It’s easy enough to model any magical effect using Powers (heck, I’ve already done D&D’s 9th level spells myself) but a few worked examples would have come in handy for new players of the game. And I suspect there’ll be many of those.
Rounding out the last third of the book is not one, but three campaign settings. We have the iconic piratical Freeport complete with Very Lovely Map (which is, incidentally, Very Lovely). There’s Freedom’s Reach, a fantasyized (is that a word?) version of Mutants & Masterminds’ own Freedom City setting, and The Lost World. No prizes for guessing what you’ll find in there!
Of the three, Freeport is unsurprisingly the strongest and most appealing, though personally I plan to take this system for a spin through the wayward streets of Ptolus. More on that, another time.
Overall, it’s an excellent supplement to a truly brilliant rules system. The artwork might not be up to Wizards’ glossy productions but the quality of the writing and design is streets ahead. This is a game that makes you want to sit down and start playing immediately. It’s 3e D&D done right. It’s 4e D&D done right.
Does that make Mutants & Masterminds the next 5th Edition D&D? Quite possibly, my friend. Quite possibly.