Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Thaumatology - Sorcery

Cover Art.
Trying to think of stuff to write, and strangely, I find, I haven't actually reviewed this one yet. That's weird because I talk about it all the time, but I guess, hey, low hanging fruit for a writer's block day. In my opinion, it is definitely a good book, and even though a lot of it is just exercising currently existing concepts and mechanics, the "hardcore improvisation" is something brand new. Today, let's try to focus on the book itself rather than the mechanics of the system.

Overview

This is a 36 page PDF that starts chapter one on page 4, the last chapter ends on page 33, and there is a one page appendix with a statted out example character. This is 30~31 pages of stuff then.
The book is split into three chapters. The first 8 page chapter explains the mechanics and underpinnings of the system, the second 14 page chapter is a diverse list of spells from almost all colleges (no food college? really?) and the final seven page chapter describes the rules and gives some data to create enchantments and enchanted items.
Table of Contents
Organization is perfect, and I never found myself flipping back and forth madly to understand it. Some art feels recycled, but none is awful. And as for pull-quotes... there are some from Willow and from My Little Pony. So, that's an all around good, right? The book is mostly rules describing the new system, and data in the form of new abilities, but there is some guidance on controlling power of abilities, and the enchantment system does have, for better or worse, some assumptions made that definitely give it some kind of flavor.
At its shallowest, Sorcery can be described as "Magic as Powers," but it is a little more than that. This book is great for anyone that is interested in trying a different magic system, either to mix things up, or run it in tandem with the currently existing one. It is also good for people that are just looking for catalogs of abilities that are easy to change to other power sources, as under the covers, all powers have enough similarities that abilities are easily converted from one to another. This book is even more useful if you enjoy building abilities using GURPS Powers and Power-Ups Enhancements and Power-Ups Limitations.

The Power of Sorcery

This chapter describes the mechanics of the system. It starts with an explanation of the two fundamental abilities of the Sorcery system: the Sorcerous Empowerment advantage which lets a character learn or improvise spells, and the Sorcery Talent, standard faire Power talent for Sorcery. I appreciate the Under the Hood explanations because there are a lot of crazy things going on under the hood.
The chapter then moves on to how to cast spells, which is mostly straightforward and old hat for anyone that knows how Powers work, but the Hardcore Improvisation section is almost completely new, and the aside on Alternative Rituals is a really fun optional rule.
After discussing some of the implications of spells as Alternative Abilities, the chapter goes into some patterns and best practices for spinning up one's own spells. All spells use the familiar advantage building system from the Basic Set, but Sorcery, to keep things simple, requires certain conventions to be followed. While unfortunately sometimes requiring extra character points, it is helpful to know that if you look through a spell list, you will not be surprised by any unusual configurations of limitations and enhancements, meaning less time and brain cycles needs to be devoted to recollecting the exact complicated configuration of spell x versus spell y.
This is a perfectly laid out chapter and everything is laid out in a sensible manner. If there is one very subjective nitpick though, it's about the Imbuements, but I just have an issue with imbuements, though this system seems even more wasteful of points than normal. I think if I were GMing it, and someone wanted Imbuement spells, I might give them a price break if they bought Imbue separately.

The Sorcerer's Grimoire

This chapter, is of course, the spell list. Before going into the spell list, it speaks to the formatting of a correct spell entry, useful for understanding the spell listing, and for formatting hand-spun spells.
The spell list is good. A lot of spells are novel, though a lot are also pretty elementary, though I also found that educational. I think Sorcery was the breakthrough book that let me stat out bunches of abilities, like it solved the puzzle in a way that the Powers book didn't do for me, so maybe those elementary spells aren't so bad?
I also want to point out that the asides in this section are especially helpful, some have spells or no applications or invented limitations, so I thought that was cool. Overall, a really good spell list and a helpful addition to any catalog of abilities you might be building for yourself from Powers, Divine Favor, Psi Powers, and Dungeon Fantasy 14: Psi.

Enchanted Items

One of the things that I didn't like about RPM is that the enchantment system felt like a kinda twisted hackjob that totally failed to mesh with the rest of the system. That enchantment system is repurposed and rebuilt and makes a lot more sense here in its refreshed form. Enchanting is very flavorful, using mechanics to drive home the seriousness of self sacrifice, the effect enchanting has on an economy, and making creating enchantments a serious investment.
The enchantment system does some good things in my opinion to simplify some of the gadgetry modifiers, and I personally repurpose it for other creation rules.

Other Thoughts and Conclusions

Separating the book from the content, I think it is very well written and an example of what rule books for subsystems should look like. Taken with the content, I think it is a valuable buy for anyone that likes supernatural abilities in their games, and especially if you find the default system inflexible. I mean, it's a weird hangup I guess, because the default system has a lot to offer, but because I feel like I don't know how to create my own spells for it, that is a show-stopper for me. Therefore, it is my own opinion that Sorcery should be "the default" newbie friendly magic system for GURPS.

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