Player’s Option: Spells & Magic (1996)

Of course, magic-users get their moment in the optional limelight. While there is one big option introduced in Player’s Option: Spells & Magic (1996), I feel like author Richard Baker mostly takes this opportunity to appraise the published material on magic in 2E and kind of smooth any jagged edges. An exercise in clarification, sort of. In this way, just about everything in the book feels like an extension of the existing D&D magic system, rather than new stuff created from whole cloth.

The one exception is a biggie: a point system for casting spells. Along with critical hits for combat, this is among the oldest homebrew tinkerings for D&D and this makes for the first and I believe only time such a system appears in an official D&D publication (they have popped up periodically in the magazines, though). It’s actually several different systems and introduces several new concepts for spellcasters — the warlock class is here, for instance, with its pacts, as are Dark Sun’s defilers. While a lot of these are interesting, on the whole I find them too complex for play.

I do really like the book’s focus on downtime (perhaps inspired by Ars Magica). I’ve always thought the coolest thing about mages and such is their ability to research and create new spells and magic items. The D&D rules have always said this was possible, but never gave much support in terms of how to do it. We get that here, with all sorts of options for all the magic using classes. That’s good stuff.

Lots of fun art in this one. Not often do you see a painting of a xorn!  

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