SO…as I was writing earlier…IDEAS are the thing that The Compleat Spell Caster (or TCSC) is chock full of. NEW ideas. Like that familiars are not “little bonded animals” but rather DEMONIC SLAVES (just like we thought of ‘em back during the Inquisition!).
Demons are a mix of the historical and the weird. No there are no “cambions” in the game, but the description of the Incubus/Succubus (dammit! I thought I would be the first one to publish the incubus with my B/X Companion!) clearly states that they are the product of a union between “a spell caster and an arch demon.” Oh, I love it!
MAJOR ARCANA: the concept that there are some spells that are “mythical” in nature…that may exist or may not and if so may be unknown to the normal practitioners of a particular spell caster class…is downright awesome. I’m tempted to lump all or most max level spells into this category and require spell research or adventuring to discover them.
Such a neat idea: it gives the DM the ability to actually limit the spell selection in his or her campaign (“oh, the Spell of Forlorn Encystment? That one really IS just a fairy tale made to scare children…”) or dangles a nice plump carrot/treasure for the characters to quest after (“the arch-mystic Waluu is the only caster known to have perfected the Negative Illusions spell”). The spells themselves are nothing way spectacular in my opinion…it’s the CONCEPT that I will completely rip off!
Less impressive are the “runes” and symbols section. The magic of writing just doesn’t feel very occult in a game world where any character with a 9 intelligence or greater can read. Runes (and magical writing in general) had much more power in a world where literacy was uncommon. Not so much in D&D…really.
I mean, can’t anyone scratch a copy of a symbol on a door? And if not why not? And if it’s necessary to focus one’s magical power (as opposed to just blasting someone with a spell effect), well that’s kind of a weak spell caster.
Regarding the specific, new classes (the mystic, witch/warlock, necromancer, sorcerer, and sage): I like the basic direction taken with each, and all would be worthy of some sort of conversion. Sorcerers are much more “old timey” (think Ron Edwards and his demon summoners, NOT Wizards of the Coast's Charisma-based weenies), which I approve, of course. Sages are akin to hedge wizards (being eclectic wise-man types ) while Mystics seem like the basis for the Rifts O.C.C. of the same name.
Witch and Warlock are listed as two included classes on the back cover, but they’re actually only one class (warlocks being male witches). Regardless, they are portrayed much more like the witches of the Wiccan religion, though still magical in nature. Much like druids, they derive their powers from the natural world…yet they have plenty of Wizard of Oz (good and evil sides both) in the class description. I really like this write-up actually and see them as an excellent foil to any campaign that includes Witch Hunters.
Finally, of course, we have the Necromancer. What can I say? Disappointing as almost always every version of this maligned mage has been (from WFRP, to Rifts, to various video games, to Necromantic specialists in 2nd edition AD&D) I have always been drawn to the concept of the necromancer. Even my long run NPC magic-user (Alejandro’s companion “Arioch”) was based on a “necromancer” design. And my best Ars Magica characters were always “death mage” types.
Now this, of course, can be chalked up to my Scorpio sun. Yes, yes I make fun of everyone else’s sign…might as well spill some dirt on the Scorpio drama queens. Everything’s “O So Life & Death” for us; every Scorpio can stand to “loosen up” no matter how loose you may already be (assuming, that is, that you’re not the self-destructive, self-stinging scorp type…they need to grow a pair and clean up their act).
Anyways, yes, Sex and Death are the two great stereotypical fascinations for the Scorpio person…and being a triple Scorp (Sun, Mercury, and Ascendant) as well as having the ruler of both my MidHeaven and South Node (though these are lesser influences) makes me no exception.
‘Course, every person has all 12 signs of the Zodiac in their natal chart, so we all have SOME degree of Scorp in us.
So back to our deadly fascination with the necromutant…er, necromancer. How is it?
Pretty badass in some regards. These guys also make a good foil for the witch hunter (or paladins or lawful clerics). They have some interesting abilities one might expect (controlling undead, seeing in the dark, immunity to fear) and some you might not (attracting undead to their stronghold like a cleric attracts “faithful” followers, automatically rising from the grave as an undead when their mortal body is slain, fashioning golems from flesh, bone, and “graveyard clay”).
The necromancer’s spells are a mixed bag: Undead Shapechange (like the 9th level magic-user spell but only applicable to undead) seems a bit of a waste to me as a 7th (max) level spell. On the other hand, necromancers can Summon Arch-Demon (TCSC’s equivalent of a Demon Prince or Lord of Hell!) at only 6th level! Of course, such summoning generally cost the conjurer one-third of his soul or ten years servitude (in life)…unless the necromancer wants to attempt to coerce the demon (!!) into submission.
Anyway, adjustments are certainly necessary for any B/X conversions. Not in terms of “game balance” (who cares about that?) so much as consistency and cohesion. In other words, I’ll need to edit these guys down a bit if they’re going to fit into a B/X paradigm. As AD&D character classes they’re probably pretty close to “good as is.” Take that as you wish.
[Um, by the way…the Necromancer is probably not suitable for young children or 2nd edition AD&D player characters. But he/she sure makes a good villain in ANY game system. Dig it!]