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Wonder & Wickedness (2015)

This is Wonder & Wickedness (2015), by Brandon Strejcek. It is a new magic system, ostensibly for OSR games consisting of 7 schools, 56 spells, a heap of catastrophes, new magic items and a completely different approach to spellcasting; an accomplishment considering is just 84 A6 pages (4ish by 6ish).

The idea is to minimize the magic system’s complexity while increasing utility and narrative flare. There are no spell levels – any sorcerer can cast any spell so long as they have it in their grimoire – but damage, duration and utility generally increase according to character level, while some spells can be made permanent or fixed with predetermined triggers through inscribing sigils. The spells themselves are mostly (if not all, it is a little hard to tell) reimaginings of the original white box D&D spells, nested together in unusual ways and given new life by evocative descriptions. For example, the equivalent of D&D’s Light spell is here called Gleam and filed under the school of Diabolism.

Most of the spells tend toward effects that are narrative to utilitarian in nature, rather than bellicose. To make up for that, any memorized spell can be sacrificed for a maleficence, which does a set amount of damage (2d6) and can explode (roll two sixes and keep rolling one die, adding to the total, until the result isn’t another 6). Conversely, a memorized spell can be sacrificed to nullify an incoming magical against one person per level of the caster –  this rule is so good I think every D&D game should use it. And then there are catastrophes, which are terrifying and the result of overtaxing or abusing magical power. They are all wonderfully bizarre – a favorite elemental catastrophe causes the sun to shine more intensely, ruining crops and attracting strange birds that hunt children. What?

The result, amplified by the fact that Russ Nicholson illustrates the whole thing, is a magic system that feels new, dangerous and lacks clearly defined limits.  

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