Friday, June 22, 2012

Compleat Spell Caster

As I work on my Peril RPG, I thought it would be instructive to look at and share some golden oldies from my Scriptorium.  Bard Games published a number of Compleat Fantasy books back in the early 80's (Alchemist, Spell Caster, Adventurer) and also created their own game and world books (Atlantis) which were all usable with the grand old game.  For now I will focus on the Compleat Spell Caster and tackle others later.

The Compleat Spell Caster had a price of $7.50 and came in at 42 pages.  As you can see from the back of the book there is quite a lineup information contained within.

I am no artist, so its hard to complain, but its of varying pencil and ink illustrations. Some is good and some looks like stuff your buddy in art class was drawing after the last game session when you assaulted the lair of Grimnak .

The introductory text is calligraphic while the main body is typewritten and looks similar to the work of Judges Guild products.

Pages 3 and 4 describe using the material with common FRPG of the times.  Converting to D&D, Runequest or TFT all require a bit of effort but nothing too difficult.  For example with TFT you's have to figure out IQ and cost of each spell and guidelines are given to help you do that.  Unfortunately they tend to be of the "find something similar and use that as your base."

Interestingly there is a "turn chat" on page 4 The Mystic class turns undead like a cleric, but the Necromancer class reverses the idea and uses the turn chart as a control undead chart. Always liked that touch and we've used it in that manner with Necromancer's ever since.

The spells
CSC presents 4 spell using classes and included with each class are 7 levels of spells.  Each spell level has 6-12  spells listed. Each spell is given a brief summary, below is a sample of the HEX spell from the Witch/Warlock Class

HEX: Allows the caster to "curse" any single creature or being, causing the victims to make all saves at a penalty of -1 on the die. The intended victim's true name must be known in order for the HEX to be effective, or the caster must have in his or her possession a hair, nail clipping, etc. from the intended victim.
SAVE: None
SPELL TYPE: Non-variable

On to the classes
Witch/Warlock (F/M versions of same class)  Described as a naturalist spell caster, in tune with nature like a Druid-but not worshipful of it. Can be any alignment and seven levels of spell given (60+ spells and descriptions follow)

Mystic a sort of holy wizard. Like a cleric they have turn abilities and serve a god, but they must abstain from physically harming any living creatures.  They can use physical force to subdue or stun if it is necessary to save a life-but they have to do penance afterwards spending a day in meditation. (60+ spells follow)

Necromancer described as an evil class of spell caster interested in death and the nether realms. Besides the interesting twist using the turn undead into a control undead chart, he Necromancer if raised from the dead comes back as a random undead spirit! This class I think is the most unique in the book and I've mined it for ideas for years.  (40+ spells follow)

Sorcerer as presented is a scientific spell caster, studying magic and learning through experimentation and research. probably the least interesting in terms of concept. (60+ spells follow)

Sage is sort of a jack of all trades spell caster. There is no specific spell list as the sage can learn from any spell list.  The Sage is limited to level 4 spells from any one category though. The Sage is an interesting idea, but not much space is given to it (roughly 1 column) and it feels a bit underdeveloped to me.

Halfway through the book now and we come to 2 pages on Runes, Symbols and circles of protection.  Each has a minor magical effect and a test vs Int is used to determine if it was drawn properly or not. We used these when playing TFT and B/X D&D as they added flavor to the game and were easy to incorporate.

Next is a brief section on familiars (types/descriptions), and then summoned creatures follow.  This summoned creatures portion is exactly the sort of stuff people THOUGHT was in D&D: Summoning, demons, devils, possession, magic circles etc. This section also includes elemental and a section on animal and pant summoning.  Though no animals are included, a few odd plants that could be summoned are.  The various demons and creatures are all given stats and a brief description and small picture.

Interesting to me is the lack of a Summoner class in this book.  While many clases have a summon spell-given the depth given to the subject here, it seems like a summoner class would have been a natural for this book.

The last 2 pages are really for the GM specifically these are Major Arcana which are secret powerful spells (10) the GM can use or allow characters to find.  Then a list of Arcane items (6) which are unique magical treasures or items.

All in all this book was, and is, a good reference and resource for magic in fantasy games.  While it is clearly weighted towards AD&D it can easily be used for RuneQuest or TFT games and just as an idea generator it remains a good shelf reference.


Timothy Brannan said...

I loved this book back in the day and played the Witch class a few times.

My memories of if are still very fond. Maybe inordinately so.

Fenway5 said...

CSC still holds up well after 25+ years, and its Witch and Necromancer classes are the yardstick by which I measure all others.

Anonymous said...

I googled The Compleat Spellcaster just now for nostalgic purposes. I wanted to see the cover art. Very cool to have found this. I remember I bought my copy at a comic shop around 1987. Cheers