Game: Wild Spellcraft
Publisher: Natural 20 Press
Review Dated: 19th, September 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
The core idea in Wild Spellcraft is a rocky steady one. Wouldn’t it be better if magic was a little less scientific? Magic works to rules and carefully defined regulations in a roleplaying game because that makes for neat, clean and easy to understand game mechanics. Wild Spellcraft suggests a simple extra mechanic to govern those times when the spell might not go as described by the spell book. It’s a d20 mechanic but the concept works for all high fantasy games and much of the “mishap tables” content can easily be adapted for other game systems. As simple as the Wild Spellcraft idea is I don’t think true blue newbies will be likely to be trying it out and I think the author could have adjusted the writing style for a slightly more game-wise audience than the book currently seems written for.
It’s a 72-paged book if you count the full-page advert at the back. It’s good value at $13.95 even though the book’s black and white, with a fairly large amount of comic-magazine style art (nothing larger than a quarter of the page) and slightly thin paper. The book’s big enough and robust enough to stand up on its own and that’s enough to give it that user friendly, travel safe, “real” feel that I like my RPG supplements to have.
Chapter one is just a couple of pages long and that includes the page that details what the rest of the book is going to tell you. If you want you only ever need to read these few pages and be done with Wild Spellcraft. Here you’ll find the mechanic rules – roll an extra d20 and if it’s a 1 then roll on the mishap table. There’s a page for the 20 event mishap table. There’s a boxed section that explains a d100 is used on the 20 event mishap table as not to confuse you into thinking it’s some sort of attribute check. The same boxed comment points out that a d20 is used to see whether the spell mishaps and isn’t a check they’re sure you’ll not be confused and its easier just to roll a d20 at that stage. It’s a fair point, I suppose, but it’s also a good example of pitching the sourcebook too low.
The second chapter serves up some examples of how you might fit wild spellcraft into your own game. There are some great ideas in here; “sentient sorcery” suggests that magic itself is alive and to this review is the sort of great push to make wild spellcraft worthwhile. There are some common sense ideas in here; clerics of lawful gods aren’t likely to “suffer” from wild spellcraft but those of chaotic gods are. There are some less than tempting ideas here; that unless a spell makes someone laugh it’ll fail to work. I suppose someone else might have put that list of three in reverse order but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that this chapter was just a touch too stretched.
Wild Arcana looks at the possible ways wild magic might interact and work with magical items. It’s a chance to present yet more magical items. I quite liked the chaos field ideas though; the mechanics side of this suggestion is well handled, there are even character level adjustments available to balance encounters. There’s no padding around how or why chaos fields might occur and this is great, the suggestions are given and that’s it. I wish the previous chapter had done the same.
There’s a rule that all d20 supplements must have new feats and prestige classes. I’m not sure where that rule is written but all publishers seem to stick to it religiously. I accept that race and class books have a fair call for new feats and prestige classes and as it happens I think books like Wild Spellcraft has an even stronger claim since the whole new aspect to magic deserves specialist feats and prestige classes. For the first time ever I think Wild Spellcraft could have offered us more in the way of these mechanics. What they do give us is good though. Feats include “Enwild Spell” which ensures the spell will suffer a “mishap” but because the spell caster knows something wild is going to happen they can be better prepared for it and may successfully push the effect from a “mishap” to a benefit. The prestige classes are the “Pandaemonicist” and the “Sculptor of Chaos” which are both nicely grounded prestige classes. I think the play on Pandemonium is nicely done.
New wild spells have a chapter all to themselves and are presented with a summary first and then the details later. This is the sort of organisation which often gets cut out when the page count becomes a serious concern and it’s a good sign that Natural Press’s relationship with print partner Mystic Eye Games seems to be working well. There are about 40 new spells suited to Wild Magic and thanks to the first half of the chapter you’ll quickly see which are suited to Clerics, Druids, Wizards, etc. In my opinion it’s well worth the extra pages and whatever fraction of the cost of the book that it adds up to. Sample spells include “Minor Hex of Misfortune” and “Soliptic Disillusionment”. A fare few of the spells are more complicated than the average damage-dealers from the core rules but they’re all plainly explained and take the a whole side of paper to explain themselves if needs be.
The last chapter of the book but not the last significant section of the book contains a sample location where Wild Magic might come into play. The idea here is that magic works as “normal” throughout your campaign world and you can playtest the wild magic rules by having a location where magic acts strangely. The Library of Yen-Ching is entirely on par with the sample scenario or extended scenes that you’ll find at the back of RPG supplements. As a bonus it’ll help you tinker the location to suit the character levels of your group of PCs and I think this is extremely helpful. You can tell guess that the book’s written by an author who still roleplays himself.
Wild Spellcraft finished off with a section of Exotic & Bizarre Mishaps Tables. It’s not really a chapter and they’re not labelled as an appendix either. It doesn’t really matter though. The point is the tables are in an easy to find location if you want to make use of the charts provided by the book.
Wild Spellcraft is a clear cut case. If you’re tempted by introducing more chance and a bit of humour into your game then this a product for you. It’s a RPG supplement to check out because there aren’t many alternatives though. Despite it’s name, Wild Spellcraft plays fairly safe. I was disappointed to find only one system to see whether a spell has a wild effect or not. The front cover shows a gone (he is, really) surrounded by cards and yet the “draw a card and if it’s an ace” method of determining that something extra has happened doesn’t feature. I could say that nothing truly interesting leaps out from the book to impress me but perhaps more importantly I can say that the book does the job at hand without anything throwing too much of a spanner in the works. In the end you’re left with a stalwart and safe offering from the industry to the community.