Tattered Magicks is an urban fantasy tabletop RPG from Brian Fitzpatrick, Moebius Adventures and Gallant Knight Games.
It uses the Inverse20 engine, which means a natural 1 is excellent news and a natural 20 a critical failure.
How bad are natural 20s? Well, Tattered Magicks has rules for Grenade Throwing Failures and much of the game is about providing fuel for spells you’ve discovered, invented or woven together. With influences like Hellboy and Stranger Things, there’s room in Tattered Magicks for scenes to go explosively off the rails.
Let’s take a step back. At its heart, Tattered Magicks is a game about magic returning to the world as the once banished Fae persist in their efforts to return and menace us all.
If Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Warehouse 13 style encounters with werewolves and cryptids are the heart of the game, then a simple ruleset is the spine.
Tattered Magicks characters
There are no classes. Heroes level up at the end of some adventures, and that’ll boost their stats. As a result, I can show the full character generation process in one single image.
It’s a six-point process, and while there are no classes, characters may have a profession which has an influence on skill selection.
I’d prefer the first step, Rolling for Attributes, to have an optional point-buy system. I acknowledge this may not be the vibe that Fitzpatrick wanted for the game, and there is the optional rule of swapping two attributes around. That doesn’t help characters starting out on equal footings. Nor does a single attribute swap prevent some players labouring under a cloud of bad rolls at this critical part of the game and resenting their characters as a result.
Players then pick, don’t roll, for an Entanglement. These are the reasons why characters know about the Hidden World, and each has a bonus. The PC might be cursed, have been someone’s sidekick or just a person that attracts weirdness.
I like the notion of Entanglements a lot. I wish more RPGs had “reasons why your character is in this adventure” built into the character generation system. It’s not dictatorial, but it offers out a helpful hand.
Important in Tattered Magicks are Traits. Attributes are general categories like Education, Morale or Athletics. Traits are more specific areas in which the character has something noteworthy. Traits are why characters could become heroes.
There are Magical Affinity Traits like Craft Sounds, Craft Elements or Craft Movements which are used in clever spellcasting to create the outcome the character was hoping for. More mundanely, there are also Background Traits or ones gained through Professions.
I said Tattered Magicks didn’t use classes but are Professions the same thing? No, not really. Classes tend to shape the character as they develop, but here Professions are mainly used to build a character at the moment of creation.
With the Inverse20 system, players want to roll under a target number on a d20. If they have an Advantage, then it’s a 2d20 roll with the most advantageous number used. A critical success happens on a roll of a 1 or rolling the TN exactly, so I can see some rolls made with Advantage when a higher dice is picked. Disadvantage also rolls 2d20, but it’s always the highest number picked.
Now, does this light-weight or D&D-familiar system mean that Tattered Magicks isn’t going to appeal to gamers who lean towards OSR-labeled titles? Not necessarily, as I said at the start, this RPG has rules for Grenade Throwing Failures.
Another example of an important “crunch” in Tattered Magicks is in armour. Protective gear in this RPG has two stats; Amor Resistance and Armour Points. Armor Resistance is the amount of damage that your armour copes with, reducing the incoming attack by a corresponding amount. Armour Points is how much health the armour has.
For example, Kevlar has AR2/AP10 so if hit for 5 points of damage, it reduces that by 2 (the AR), leaving 3 which is absorbed by the AP. The vest is now AR2/AP7.
As we’ll see when we get to spells; the effort economy is critical for any successful spell-slinger too.
Spells in Tattered Magicks
In a way, you are the fuel for your spells in Tattered Magicks. You can use your attributes to power the magic you want to cast, but this will knock you out if you hit zero and, of course, makes success less likely as your attributes lower.
It’s better to be trained.
It’s even better to have a bank of power which you can tap into.
The flavour for this is all in your hands. There are no rules. If you want your hero in Tattered Magick to be empowered by the vibrations of the universe, they are, or to channel certain medicinal herbs then that’s okay as well.
Characters do have known spells, but this isn’t a straight forward Vancian magic system. You have unknown spells too. More importantly, you can create spells.
Creating your own spells gives Tattered Magicks an epic feeling. The Fae are trying to invade our world again, despite the sacrifice Merlin made to keep them out. Many of the techniques humanity used to defend against them has been lost. You might have to rediscover them.
In Stranger Things, plucky teenagers kept the monsters at bay through friendship and determination. In Tattered Magicks it’ll take more than that, it’ll often take clever spellcasting of your own design.
The basics are simple; how powerful does the spell need to be (one through ten), what does it affect, and how does it manifest? In practice, and in my experience with all such systems, it takes familiarity and confidence from the players to make the system work for their characters.
Spellcasting is likely to appeal to gamers who like the mechanical tactics of RPGs, working out how much effort is appropriate to win the hour, while leaving enough energy left to win the day. It’ll likely also appeal to gamers who like to be creative with their storytelling and descriptions, but for different reasons.
Tattered Magicks look and feel
This urban RPG is a $10 game, and just shy of 150 pages. It’s a black and white and single-column book. In layout terms; Tattered Magicks is nothing fancy.
It is effective and unintimidating.
Tattered Magicks is easy to read, and that’s helpful if this is your first time coping with a magic building system. The font is accessible in the PDF version (the version I had), there’s plenty of space between sentences and paragraphs.
The intended paragraphs are a little old-fashioned, not something I’m used to seeing any more in digital, but I’m old, and the formatting didn’t throw me.
Illustrations are used sparingly, but impactfully. There’s the sense that you’re paying for the fresh ideas here rather than a team of illustrators. That said, five illustrators get credits in the game, and there’s not one whiff of the suggestion there wasn’t enough resources to bring this project to life.
I like Tattered Magicks. I enjoyed discovering the RPG and now know precisely which group of gamers I would play it with; my old grognard pals who do tend to be interested in trying something new.
I also know which groups of gamers this wouldn’t suit. The youngsters I occasionally D&D 5e with over Discord met during the lockdown and for whom 5e is their only experience would struggle with this. While Tattered Magicks does call the GM the “referee” my OSR buddies who like to have a bit of an adversarial relationship with each other and the GM probably wouldn’t take to Tattered Magicks as well as I did.
So, if you’re somewhere in the middle – not too green and not too change-resistant – then I think Tattered Magicks is worth your time. At the very least; it’ll give you something to think about and might even be a breath of fresh air needed to sweep away some mind cobwebs.
Tattered Magicks is available now as a PDF and also print-on-demand soft and hardcover.
My copy of Tattered Magicks was provided for review.
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