Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Review: Pyramid 3/48 Secret Magic

I remember when GURPS Fantasy came out. That epic Denis Loubet cover brought a glorious splash of color to what was the drab and monochromatic GURPS edition of the day. The Vancian magic of old school D&D ruled at that time… and here was a system where your starting character could begin with whatever spells he wanted… and he could cast them as many times as he wanted if he had the energy to do it. It was a big freaking deal. Unfortunately, I never got that particular game played to the extent that it deserved. And though I’ve been running a variant of Steve Jackson’s first magic system for my son’s games, it’s my hope that this issue of Pyramid will finally provide me with the necessary enthusiasm and inspiration to get the genuine GURPS magical experience onto the gaming table. Let’s see what’s inside….

Magical Tradecraft — This article covers spy stuff using the ritual path magic from GURPS Monster Hunters. I don’t have that particular product, so this isn’t that useful to me… but if I did have it, I would be glad to have the additional support and development. This article is a “miss” for me, but it’s exactly the sort of miss I hope to find in the pages of Pyramid. The notes on Quick Gadgeteer at the end will allow me to run a MacGyver type character in any setting… and that counts for something…!)

The Way of the Keepers — If you ever want to drop magic into a realistic campaign without having to rewrite history or turn the game world upside down… then this is the ticket. Magic is real… but its secret is maintained by a sort of mystical men-in-black. The Magical Style presented here for that society is ready to run as is. (I love these styles,especially since rolling my own is beyond the capacity of my GURPS-fu.) So this article is triple-win: it provides a way to dip into some magic rules in a wider variety of campaigns than I would have imagined, the style is a great how-to example, and the different “pay grades” of the style imply a wide variety of non-player characters. Well played, sir! [Score 1 point]

The Street Sign of the Four — This article brings us four non-player character mages to either use as-is or else as inspiration for character builds… plus… an adventure situation that can be used a variety of ways and that can even be developed into a sophisticated multi-part adventure plot. Normally I dislike adventure seeds– the way they are normally covered leaves me cold. This is much better and would sustain a story arc covering several game sessions. [Score 1.5 points]

Bibliomancy — Can GURPS ever have too many spells? No way! These are all immediately usable and playable just with Basic Set with the exception of one stray reference to GURPS Magic. Of course, any spells you add to GURPS at this point are going to be splitting some mighty fine hairs. [Score 1/2 point.]

The First Resistance — Yet another Magical Style for you! This time… it’s for an underground resistance movement. If The Way of the Keepers didn’t fit your campaign, this one might do better if it is at all any sort of fantasy setting. Special lucky bonus: this style includes notes for working it into the Dungeon Fantasy line. [Score 1 point]

The Accidental Magus — Okay, I really like the “untrained psi” characters in science fiction. This article gives a run down on all the ways you could implement someone that “accipurposely” casts spells and stuff… but at the end of it, it’s all just basic GURPS. I’m not smart enough to know exactly what I wanted for this, but I feel like this could have stood with more finesse somehow. [Score 1/2 point for sound advice and a fun idea for a character concept]

The Guard of the Black Lands — Background, history, and adventure seeds for an Egypt/Islamic themed Monster Hunters campaign. This is probably well done, but the subject matter would dredge up far too much real world religion and politics at the game table than what my tastes would allow.

Forewarned is Forearmed — This is advice on how to use Power Ups : Impulse Buys to handle retroactive precognition rolls during a game. My first reaction was to thing that this is so narrow of a thing that it can’t be that useful… but this article is so well done it deserves more credit than that. (I once ruled that a party got to do a do-over after a total party kill after their magic user pulled something like this.) [1/2 point]

Anything For Power — Careful! This is exactly the sort of article that will resurrect the Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons groups! That would be a B.A.D.D. thing!! (This a very brief article with some more spooky ritual magic stuff to go with GURPS Locations: Worminghall.)

Onomancy — Another super-short “extra” article. This one is so weird, though… I have no idea how to run it. It’s about using fake identities to power magic spells. Nuts!

Whew! That’s a bunch of articles! [Total score… 5 points.]

Just for me, the magical styles, the four sample mages, and their set of adventure seeds are the most immediately useful. This is not all “oh good grief I just gotta run this material right away!” type stuff… but the quality is very even that the issue is entertaining on the whole. Does it inspire me to finally play GURPS Magic with some vim and vigor? Hmmm…. A bit, maybe. However, I’m liable to stick to the simpler spells and a more hack and slash orientation than the sort of tone that is generally presented here. Given that… I suppose I should take another look at Dungeon Fantasy sometime.

Note: the articles I find least useful are the ones that the online GURPS community brags the most on. Typical! Obviously, your mileage may vary from mine….

Update: Magical Tradecraft is creating some buzz over on the GURPS fora. The Ritual Path Magic system from Monster Hunters  is proving to be quite popular among long time GURPS fans and will be further supported and developed in an upcoming supplement for Thaumatology.

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