Game: Forbidden Arcana: Burning Spellbooks
Publisher: Ronin Arts
Review Dated: 5th, October 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
It’s all about value for money, or time versus effort, I suppose. I think Forbidden Arcana: Burning Spellbooks represents pretty good value for money. The PDF might only be 12 pages long, 9 pages of which are worth printing, but for less than US $2 you get a complete set of rules from Philip J Reed and art from Larry Elmore.
Burning a spellbook is beneficial unless it’s your own spellbook. That’s why the arcane science fits nicely into the Forbidden Arcana niche; it can’t be something that wizards are keen to promote at all. Leave my spellbook alone!
The idea, Reed tells us, comes from a story about Nostradamus. It’s written somewhere that the famous prophet claims he received all his wisdom after a whole library of occult books burnt down. Whether Nostradamus’ visions were due to breathing in toxic ink tainted smoke or for being bathed in the escaping magick energy we’ll leave to debate. With these d20 rules it’s the escaping arcane power that have the beneficial side effects.
Talking about benefits – the whole PDF, all of the text anyway, is open source. That means you can use it in your own products providing you stick to the open source license and give Ronin Arts and Philip J Reed due credit. I’ll take advantage of this to quote an entire table from the book in the review.
There are lots of tables in this PDF. If you’re burning a spellbook you need to work out if the tome is dominated by one particular school of magic or not and you’ll need to work out whether it’s a low, medium or high powered book. Once you’ve done that you can roll on the right table to see what the side effects might be. Ah, but there aren’t always side effects. Burning a spellbook only releases the arcane energies in the right sort of way about 10% of the time. In a nice touch, if you burn the book with magic flames then this probability of a magical haze doubles to 20%.
Let’s say that we work out the burning book is dominated by Divination spells (it might happen!) and is mid-level. We get this table to roll on.
Roll 1d6 and consult the following list.
1 – All divination spells cast within – or targeting within – 50 ft. of the burning book instantly fail, having no effect.
2 – All characters and creatures within 20 ft. of the book are treated as if the spell telepathic bond has been cast on them by a 20th level spellcaster.
3 – For the next 1d10 days, each character or creature within 20 ft. of the burning book gains the ability to cast legend lore – as a 20th level spellcaster – once per day as a free action.
4 – One random target within 10 ft. of the burning book gains the ability to cast see
invisibility once per day, as a full-round action, as if he were a 20th level spellcaster.
5 – All characters and creatures within 20 ft. of the book lose 1 point of Wisdom, permanently.
6 – Roll twice on the mid level universal table (see p. 11).
So… when I said burning books was beneficial, I was lying. You can see there’s a risk there. Loosing one point of Wisdom is nasty, especially for magic heavy groups. Well. This is the risk you take with magic. There’s also the option to toss in an XP cost too.
I think this is a good idea. I think it’s worth $2. Forbidden Arcana: Burning Spellbooks is just the sort of PDF it’s worth tossing into your shopping cart when you’re buying your next PDF. A rule like this can change your whole campaign. That’s something to keep in mind. Watch what you unleash into your game world. If you unleash something positive that sticks around to improve your campaign for years to come – then that’s an extremely well spent $2.