Magic-user versatility within a strict Vancian interpretation (now that’s a lame title if I have ever seen one.)

This post grew from watching a video by Aaron the Pedantic (Twitter: @cha_neg) I saw recently, where he mentions things he (as a new guy with that edition) likes about AD&D, second edition. One of them is the Vancian system of magic, with its well-known memorize & lose style of spellcasting. He believes that the restrictions imposed by such a system are a good thing, as they encourage more thoughtful gameplay rather than just “cast whatever you want.” But, paraphrasing from memory, he says that the system is “At the start of the day you pick up which spells you will memorize…”

Although that is, indeed, how most people play and how Vancian magic is usually explained and understood, the goal of this post is to explain that there’s (or could be) more to it than that, and that I believe (whether it was intended or not when the rules were written) that Vancian magic is very versatile if one follows the memorization process as explained in the Dying Earth books, which implies dropping the assumption of “at the start of the day.” Maybe this might help dispell the idea that Vancian magic is broken or doesn’t work in games, which might be of the reasons later D&D editions ignored it. The point is that people who claim such things are not exactly wrong, for Vancian magic can be unnecessarily restrictive, but I believe this comes from a mistranslation from the books to the games or a too gamey implementation of its logic. Also, I don’t believe my reinterpretation requires new, strange rules because what I’m going to say is implied, yet rarely noticed, in the rules themselves. It might be common-sensical for some people.

Continue reading “Magic-user versatility within a strict Vancian interpretation (now that’s a lame title if I have ever seen one.)”

Your magic-slinging protag may have ruined magic (unless you’re Jack Vance—then you’re cool.)

Get Mythic, by Amatopia, commenting on a Twitter thread about the decline of a “mythical” feeling in fantasy. The gist of the idea, at the risk of simplification, is that contemporary fantasy has a materialistic feeling. It lacks “a richness, a whiff of the unearthly that permeates everything. Magic is the best word to describe it.” Wonder, awe, whatever you want to call it. Essentially the opposite of a setting where magic has been reduced to supernatural engineering or a form of energy manipulation described by a language (both by the narrator and characters) analogous to the one ushered by the scientific revolution.

Continue reading “Your magic-slinging protag may have ruined magic (unless you’re Jack Vance—then you’re cool.)”

Roundup, announcement, and other stuff.

May seems to have been my Jack Vance’s month.

Besides my previous D&D article, here are a few posts I wrote about him at the Puppy of the Month Book Club (May was “The Dragon Master & other stories” month.)

Vance and the writers he inspired

The original art of the beasts from The Dragon Masters (that one is cool and you don’t have to read much)

“The Miracle-Workers” and the supernatural in Vance

Continue reading “Roundup, announcement, and other stuff.”

A Vancian-inspired (re)interpretation of magic-users and heathen idol-worshippers (i.e. clerics)

You are playing some old skool D&D with your friends and decide that you want to play a magic-user. The DM tells you that level 1 magic-users can only cast one spell per day and, to add injury to the insult, “your starting spells are chosen at random.

You start sweating profusely, but being a hardcore masochist, you accept the ruling and allow Eris, Princess of Chaos and Dice-Rolling, to decide that your magic-user knows three spells (plus Read Magic) of astounding power: Detect Magic, Light, and Magic Missile. Unfortunately, your DM is an ass and does not even know that Light can be used to blind enemies, and, to make things worse, he also uses some weird rule for Magic Missile (1d6+1 of damage, but an attack roll is needed.) In practical terms, that means the destructive power of your character is similar to being able to shoot a single arrow each day. 10 years at the Magic University for this?!

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Review: Cirsova #2

Cirsova 2
Cover art by Jabari Weathers.

Two months ago I reviewed the first issue of Cirsova. For those who don’t know about it, Cirsova is a magazine that specializes in fantasy inspired by the golden era of fantasy and science fiction (the distinction was blurry sometimes.) It also looks back to the pulps and tries to regain that spirit of weirdness and wonder that eludes contemporary fiction. The second issue is already here, and I can tell one thing right away: This second issue is even better.

 

I really liked the first issue, but I thought it still could be improved. It had a great variety of stories, though, so all kinds of readers could find something for them.

On the other hand, while I quickly realized which ones were my favorites stories, I can’t say the same about this second issue. But not because they aren’t any good, but because not only have the best one got better, the “average” has also improved.

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Why you should read Cugel’s Saga.

 

 

“The better to order his faculties, Cugel took a long draught of beer.”


 

cugels sagaI was going to write a long review of Jack Vance’s Cugel’s Saga, the book about the adventures and misfortunes of the outrageously selfish and coward Cugel the Clever (or so he thinks,) but I have decided to let the book and its florid style speak for themselves.

Don’t panic, it will be a short expatiation, just a few things from the first chapter, but they will be enough to convince you of its merits.

After some magical mischief, Cugel finds himself lost. He comes upon “an elaborate manse of archaic design” and tries to convince the peculiar doorman to let him in.

Continue reading “Why you should read Cugel’s Saga.”

Review: Thune’s Vision

tl;dr version: 9/10, buy the damn book.
Recommended for: People who enjoy good and strong writing, those who want to go back to the real roots of fantasy, pulp fans, and people who like to think about what they read. For fans of R.E. Howard, Burroughs, and Jack Vance this should be a no-brainer.

Not recommended for: Spineless cowards, soviet agents of International Communism, people who enjoy being laughed at, and lovers of YA fantasy fodder.

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