The Complete Warlock (1978)

Another entry in the “Fix D&D” sub-genre of RPG design, this is The Complete Warlock (1978), from Balboa Games. It is essentially a hack of the original white box D&D and, surprisingly, refers to the original text near constantly. Though published in 1978, it was developed in 1976, making it a pretty early example of this sort of exercise. It’s a shame it didn’t get to press earlier — in a case of parallel innovation, a lot of the work here resembles somewhat the final product of Advanced D&D and I think coming out in the shadow of the Players Handbook effectively buried this game.

There are three main topics in the book. The first is a new combat system, because of course there is. It’s overly complicated and not worth discussing, really, except that it uses a resolution table that is similar in its arrangement to RuneQuest and in some ways anticipates design fads of the ‘80s like the universal table in Marvel Super Heroes. There is also a critical hit table. It isn’t as robust as Rolemaster, but it does take into account different weapons and hit locations. Again, pretty early for this sort of thing!

Second is magic, which is overhauled primarily through spells. I don’t think this set of spells is either better or worse. Just different. A little more plainly worded, a little more plausible and conservative in effects. This is probably a good place to note that this book is far easier to read and navigate than the OD&D books.

Third is an overhaul of the thief. This is done by essentially giving them a massive list of thieving abilities to choose at each level, similar to a spellbook. This is pretty cool, works as a better skill system that anything D&D muster for two more decades and actually feels similar to the way advancement is presented in 3E.

Not much in the way of interior art, but what a cover by Tim Finkas, right? So evocative. Love that dragon.

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