Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Looking at BRP Worlds of Wonder "Magic World"

Recently, the Tinkerage has been looking at the original "Magic World" supplement from the Basic Roleplaying Worlds of Wonder (WoW) set (Steve Perrin and Gordon Monson). This is not to be confused with the later Magic World (2012) by Willis, et al., although both titles share the same BRP roots. But the earlier Magic World is well worth considering, especially as an excellent, light version of the BRP ruleset for fantasy gaming.

Magic World extends on and requires the core WoW Basic Roleplaying booklet, but the system is a minor masterpiece for quick, ready-to-play rules. These days, it's hard to find in print, and the gamer inclined to research this online will have to dig into the wayback machine archives.

Magic World has about the quickest character generation I've come across in the BRP line, almost as fast as Basic D&D. A player can choose to simply roll the characteristics and then start play with the default BRP skills and scores. Or, they can select from one of four professions: warrior, rogue, sage, and sorcerer. Each profession provides some prior experience and skills, which are usually a sum, or multiple of the average, of several characteristics (for example, warriors pick up three weapons at the average of STR, CON, and DEX x 5%). Although these may seem like class descriptions, there are no restrictions on eventual cross-training, and each profession suggests a variety of possible backgrounds. Even the sage is a viable scholar-adventurer, who may be anything from a healer, to a merchant, to an elf-friend. One can imagine rolling-up a Magic World adventurer in relatively short order, selecting a few professional skills, and filling in the default skills as the game goes on. A character will be relying on good initial rolls for good skills, but that's where a little player skill, a willingness to play a character rather than an optimized build, comes in.

Compared to a modern system the line between skill and skill description is sometime blurry and requires some interpretation. The "Cut Purse" skill, for example (DEX x 5% for rogues), includes "skill to Pick Pockets, Cut Purses, Remove Brooches, etc.," which could all be rejiggered as "Thievery" or "Sleight" on the character sheet.

The magic system is compact but robust, with each spell having its own percentile chance to cast (like one of the magic systems in the BGB). Unlike the BGB, Magic World spells are relatively effective (dealing1d6 damage per magic point/level, for instance), so starting sorcerers don't feel under-powered.

Finally, the combat system, although simple, includes scope for critical hits and fumbles.

Recently, reading through Roan Studios' The Bay of Spirits setting book, which is beautifully illustrated but lightly stated out only for D&D, the thought occurred that the ideal would be a compact, robust ruleset that would make it easy to generate characters and play in (almost) any fantasy setting. WoW Magic World seems to fit the bill, and it's interesting to speculate what might have been if this version of Magic World, revised and clarified, had been the basis for Chaosium's later releases.

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