Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Pyramid #3/13 - Thaumatology

Cover... art!
November 2009, this was almost seven years ago, ok? This issue is named Thaumatology and I believe is the start of a series in Pyramid. This issue goes over some Thaumatology stuff, some Dungeon Fantasy and Imbuements stuff, and some generic stuff, let's take a look.


Kawaii table of contents.
This is an issue of typical length with 7 features, the editor introduction, and the recurring Odds and Ends.
The issue being old, some stuff in the issue feels a bit OBE, but interesting fodder for inspiration nonetheless. Of the mechanical stuff with staying value, The Mystic Knight is probably the most useful still. Some of the fluffier things manage to stay useful because of the divorce from hard mechanics (Wizard's Squares, The Book of Null, and the Random Thought Table.) The more mechanical articles can probably be fluffed up with later content, but if you like Effect Shaping and Path/Book magic, there is a lot you will like here. If you are like me, you might appreciate the flavor, but also appreciate that newer systems like Ritual Path Magic and the rules from Pyramid #3/66 can help create more standardized and "balanced" costs.

The Magic of Stories

This 12 page article, by Kelly Pedersen, is a Path/Book implementation that is both a combination of a restructuring of existing spells in Thaumatology, and several new spells, cataloged in "colleges" by fairy tale tropes. The article starts with a long introduction and summary of fairy tales, but it is an interesting read. It includes a bunch of interesting fixtures that take vanilla Path/Book to further, unique places, and it includes helpful hard mechanics for classifying bonuses from some of the more wibbly wobbly components of Path/Book. There are 5 paths, each with about 1 to 2 pages of spells, some borrowed from Thaumatology, some original.
I really like the idea, but I think if I were to use it, I might use Pyramid #3/66 to stat out the cost of spells.

The Mystic Knight

This 4 page article, by Antoni Ten Monrós introduces an Imbuement themed 250 point occupational template for Dungeon Fantasy. Obviously, this means it relies on Dungeon Fantasy, but even more importantly Power Ups 1, and Pyramid #3/04 for the vast majority of applicable imbuement skills. The Mystic Knight is a mechanically solid template. I especially like the cool new perks and imbuement skills. This article is the one that convinced me to give Imbuements a try.

Wizard's Squares

This is a completely system agnostic feature, it is a tile moving puzzle with a symbolic twist that might work for any kind of magical dungeon delving or tower scouring. I've never used it, but I think it is pretty well put together, and can be an interesting change of pace.

Salving Magic

This 3 page article, by Demi Benson, is an alternative for the vanilla magic system that makes healing more difficult for wizards, but leaves it working at full power for divine casters. It's got some detailed mechanics, but personally, it isn't something I'd use, mostly because I prefer other magic systems. If I were to use the vanilla system, and really wanted to drive home a difference between clergy and wizards, I might use this, but I prefer using Divine Favor and Sorcery for the same purpose instead.

The Book of Null

This 2 page article, by J. Edward Tremlett, is a nearly mechanically void look at a dark anti-magic group. It talks about the purposes of the group, some of their important capabilities, and a few bits of flavor.
The information is still inspiring, but it would be amusing to see a refresh with the mechanics of Boardroom and Curia considered.

Red Diabolism

This six page article, by Dr. Mark Gellis is another formulation of Path/Book Magic. As you can guess by the name, it is an evil tinged variety, and it uses the Spiritual Distortion options from Thaumatology.
The article includes 4 paths, each borrowing several spells from Thaumatology, but also including around 4 original spells each. It then includes an example character, Simon Lark to demonstrate appropriate usage. To me, the most interesting part of the article is the massaging of the corruption rules to work with Effect Shaping, but the spells are also interesting and inspirational for a darker practice.

Random Thought Table - Of Mundane Magic and Middle-School Munchkinry

This two page feature, by Steven Marsh is an editorial on the fun of making custom magic systems, and an anecdote about his experiences. As a consumer, I like hearing about alternative systems, but the idea of spinning up a new one is a bit daunting to me because the idea of creating a system for playing with all the gears and widgets of the universe in a mechanically fair way just sounds like a never-ending labor of love to me. If you dig it, awesome, I'll gladly look at your system as long as it isn't "system x, but with the numbers changed."

Other Thoughts and Closing

Don't miss the really useful imbuement skill in the Odds and Ends section. I think this issue is best taken as a case study in ways to use the tools given by GURPS Thaumatology then something that can be used itself. A lot of the systems are cool, but are tinged with so many setting specific assumptions, I can't easily judge or ascertain how well it would jive with any setting I'd create. The Mystic Knight is a great template though for Dungeon Fantasy, and this issue is almost worth it just for that template.


  1. If all you want is "The Mystic Knight", it might be worth just waiting for December and picking up Pyramid: The Dungeon Fantasy Collection, since this article is almost certainly included.

    1. That is a true observation. I forgot to mention, I also like the little... I dunno what you call them, the line of text across the bottom of the page, I liked those.


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