Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Review of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic

While I'm primarily a sci-fi gamer that doesn't mean I shun all of fantasy's tropes and wouldn't play in a fantasy campaign if offered a chance to.  In fact my one of the major campaigns I'm working on is what can be best called a quasi-hard science fantasy one (yeah I know, but quasi-hard and fantasy aren't totally at odds with one and another so long as you treat the fantasy like a good sci-fi writer treats super science)  that's to have three major magic systems, Sorcery, Magery and Wizardry.

For Sorcery I wanted it to be something that was innate and flexible and... well what do you know, that has been handled by the good Rev. PK's GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery!

For Magery I wanted it to be half way between Sorcery and Wizardry. I wanted it to be a trained version of Sorcery that traded some flexibility for power and finding a GURPS fit for this was easy enough, that's pretty much handled by GURPS default magic system.

Lastly for Wizards I wanted them to be hella powerful but limited. They couldn't caste spells on the fly but they could make spell scrolls and the like meaning they had to spend a lot of time on making spells but the trade off was they rocked the house when they did caste! However, unlike the first two styles I couldn't find something that quite fit. GURPS Thaumatology had some ideas that could of kinda work but... it would of taken a lot of work  to make the ideas it suggested match what I had in my head. Then there was GURPS Thaumatology: Ritual Path Magic, a more detailed version of the system first introduced in GURPS Monster Hunters which emulated the style of magic seen in shows like Supernatural. This came close, real close and I was just about to settle on it when Ghostdancer dropped GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Incantation Magic... and well... holy crap... it was like he read mind my mind! I was as perfect for what I had in mind as it was going to get for a system not custom written for me!

So I figured, might as well help my mans out a little bit and do a review it. The more coverage he gets, the more likely he'll get more books deals and that means more GURPS goodness for all us. Sounds pretty win/win to me!

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic
Now to be honest, I've never written a review or really ever gave much thought to writing one before. There's tons of people who do it already and probably do a better job of it then I could do (I'm looking at you pseudo boo) so what could I add to the argument? 

Well... no point in staying in ones comfort zone, ones echo chamber. So I'll give this the old collage try (even though I never tried collage >.>). Also for full disclosure , this is very much a first impressions review. I haven't had the time to really get in there and run the system through the ringer yet but given who wrote it I'm pretty confident that my opinion of the system would only get better once I do.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 19: Incantation Magic is the latest release in the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy line of book that brings that good ol' beer and pretzels murder hobo fun in a convenient GURPS package which in turn makes it a great way to con I mean convince new blood to dive into the system! 

I gotta say, this book adds some much needs variety to the line. Before it's release all magic casters in it just used the GURPS default magery system and just had the numbers of spells they could use cut down to was in genre for a given character archetype. Now this was fine and all, after all even D&D handles their all their spell casters the same way but... it's hardly the GURPS way of doing things! GURPS is all about giving the player options and chooses so having more then one way of casting magic is hardly a bad thing!

So what is Incantation Magic and how does it differ from Magery?  

At it's core it is a variation of the Ritual Path Magic system optimized for Dungeon Fantasy. For example in Ritual Path Magic, spells are broken down into greater and lesser effects. Spells that count as lesser effects are those that have effects that at lest are some what probable such as giving someone a slight boot in their ST, something that could be explained away as hysterical strength for example, while greater effects are out and out magical and fly right in the face of natural laws but are harder to cast because of it. Incantation Magic does away with that, all effects are greater effects in it! Now this adds nuance to the system and lets casters make spells that might not be noticed as such by normal people (which is important in a Monster Hunters type campaign from which Ritual Path Magic came from) so at first this might seem like a dumbing down or over simplification of the system. To this I counter that it's a streamlining that lets the basic idea of the system work along side magery. Think about it, how fair would it be to make a  Incantation Magic user how to worker harder to be awesome with their spells when mage's get to by default? This streamlining is there for necessity and makes the system work better for the line. 

Incantation Magic also gives both the player and GM a greater range of choice. As it is the magery system isn't very flexible, much like classic D&D spells they're pretty closed box and there's no real easy way to make new spells with it (though to be fair, given that magic in magery is supposed to learned like skills this does make sense) so having a magic user that can switch up on the fly adds versatility. 

Oh and speaking of versatility, Incantation magic gives it's casters, called Incanters, several different options in how you can bring you magic to bear. You can just out and caste the magic but that takes time or you can make scrolls and even "bound" spells to your aura to give so quick access spells in a pinch. 

Alright, but doesn't all this  make it OP compared to Magery then? Well no, there is a big trade off in that casting a spell in Incantation Magic take a LONG time. Yes you have scrolls and bound spells but you still need to put the time in to make them in the fist place and once you use them, they're gonna to you make more! This also helps to give Incanters a very different feel then a typical Magery user, they're not going to be there just pop of fyaa ballllz! and other quick spells. They're goning to tend to more fall under large scale strategic spells, buffing the entire party, creating large scale effects and so on. This casting time can also be used for dramatic effect and as we all know, anything that adds good drama adds being awesome to the situation! Just think about it, you have a set up were the group is fighting a massive demon and the groups Incanter is trying to caste a banishment spell but that spell is gonna take several minutes to pop off! This means the group has to hold the line and protect them while they are in the background channeling arcane energies, chanting and building up their spell! Or it could be the fiendish orc archmage trying summon his demonic deity to smith the relm and the group has to stop him before hell is unleashed! Yeah, you could just pull a spell time out of your butt but Incantation Magic gives you the tools to really make it a spell and that could add a lot of detail and enhanced the fells of the game. 

So, what about using this in a non-Dungeon Fantasy setting? How would it stand up? Well if you just need one flexible magic system for your campaign then I'd suggest Ritual Path Magic since it gives you more things to bring to the table if you are running a more down to earth or "realistic". If you're running a GURPS Action type game with magic then this rocks on toast, giving you tactical flexibility and a system that can still pass as being subtle (well for an action movie that is) and if you want to have more then one magic system for you game (like in my situation) then as I pointed out at the start,  Incantation Magic is perfectly balanced for that. So all in all, it stands out even outside of the Dungeon Fantasy box!

So in closing this system brings you options, both in terms of how many magic casting style you can have, in how many spells you can caste AND in how you can caste them. This flexibility is the systems greatest strength and with the fat trimmed down compared to it's parent system it's a viable contender to use along side GURPS other magics options. So if you are planing on running any type of setting were you either want something a little more in depth then magery but not as crunchy as Ritual Path Magic or Sorcery or you want to have more then one magic style in play then this system is for you and at $7.99, it's a pretty good deal.

Well that's my honest thoughts on the system and why I'm gonna be using it. Hope I gave it a good pitch... oh... and did you know that it's going to be included with the Powered by GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Starter Box that's being crowd funded on Kickstarter right now? Go check it out and if you have a few bucks to spare then think about supporting it. This box set is a pretty big deal... 

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