PrinceofNothingReviews; Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e Pt. IV: Sorcery most foul!

Let us discuss the art of sorcery in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e. The aforementioned similarity to AD&D becomes all the more striking the more one peruses this section. There are some very interesting differences however.

Warhammer Fantasy uses a spell point or mana-based system. Each spell consumes a set amount of spell points, and wizards gain new spellpoints for each new level they master (i.e between 1 and 4). To add a little uncertainty to the game, if your wizard has less then 12 spell points (wizard’s apprenctices start with 2d4 and gain 4d4 for each of the 4 levels afterward) spells only succeed if you roll under your magic point total on a 2d6, adding delicious uncertainty. Overall, though, spells may be cast with gleefull abandon until one runs out of magic points, which can be regained through rest or even Meditation if one is lucky. When casting a spell, it is always possible to expand more spell points so your opponent has a harder time making his willpower save, making for truly staggeringly powerful Alpha strike capability, as god intended.

The noble art of Wizardry is divided into but 4 levels of power, mastery of which is generally attained when the Wizard himself attains a new level (after the apprentice, each spellcasting class has 4 levels). The Wizard class in Warhammer Fantasy is the most demanding class in the entire game xp-wise, requiring one to take all the advancements and skills, as well as a minimum of two spells (which also cost xp to learn). Given these rather stringent xp requirements, even 2nd level wizards are likely to be frightfully rare and the veterans of many a deadly adventure. 4th level wizards should be all but unknown, to say nothing of 4th level specialist wizards (which I shall explain later).

Learning spells is prohibitively expensive, taking as much as 200 xp per level of the spell (average xp gain per session between 100-300). Mastering Petty magic, the cantrips of Warhammer Fantasy, takes but 50 xp however. To add yet more shit to the shit sandwich, a succesfull (and for higher level spells, very difficult) Intelligence check is needed, with failure requiring one to either increase one’s intelligence or find a different version of the spell (in, say, a different grimoire, or learned from Bertle the Torpid instead of Malgauber the Long-winded), before another attempt may be made. At least the xp is not expended on a failed attempt.

Spellcasting itself is kind of shit, but aruably no less unforgiving as they are in DnD. Your spells take a full round to cast (only triggering at the start of the next turn presumably), during which you count as Prone and all (melee? I assume melee) attacks on you thus hit automatically and cause double damage. If you take a hit your spell is disrupted and you still lose the magic points, like god intended.

Magic in the Old World is divided into schools different categories that have nothing to do with schools. All spellcasters learn Petty Magic first, a collection of minor incantations roughly analogous to 0th and 1st level spells in AD&D. These do not have different levels, and anyone familiar with DnD should recognize most of them immediately. Conjuring small animals out of nowhere, opening locked doors, brining a single creature into sleep, reinforcing a door and so on. After this, any wizard starts to learn the real deal, a.k.a Battle Magic levels 1-4. The game has about 10 spells per level. The spells are fairly basic, and a comparison with the evocation school of old AD&D is certainly apt. Protection spells against armour, variations on the fireball spell, enchantments that fuck with people’s brain and various buffs are added, none of which, I might add, are very memorable, though they are certainly serviceable. Magic in Warhammer would differentiate itself more from DnD in the Realms of Sorcery supplement and later editions, which I probably will not cover soon (other shit first). Since priests in Warhammer use magic from the same school, the inclusion of healing magic should come as a welcome suprise to those brave few who always thought wizards in AD&D got a bad deal. Sadly, the more interesting wacky 1e shit like Simulacrum, Clone and other wacky shit is mostly missing. All of this stuff is useful but none of it really stands out.

For those not content with simple Battle magic there is the option of specialization, which involves SWITCHING TO YET ANOTHER SEPERATE CAREER TRACK AND LEARNING A SEPERATE SCHOOL OF MAGIC WHICH COSTS EVEN MORE FUCKING XP. On the plus side, specialist magic is really fucking good. Of the 4 specialist wizard classes, two are really fucking evil and have horrible penalties associated with them, which means they are likely to be used by NPCs. Each specialist school of magic has around 3-8 spells per level in the rulebook, with more spells available on the lower levels.

The two more family-friendly specialist wizard classes are the Elementalist and the Illusionist. The Illusionist does what an Illusionist does, magical disguises, creating illusionary images and even a really fucking cool spell that allows you to say that whatever happened to you during a round did not really fucking happen and may be cast at any time. Drawback: 100 GP worth of diamonds in an hourclass for a spell component. Shiiiiit. The coolest family friendly specialist school.

The Elementalist is for those gentlemen who require yet more ways of hindering movement and blowing things up with fucking magic. In addition, such feats as tunnels through solid rock, walking on water, the conjuration of elemental creatures, assuming Ethereal Shape (fucking OP as shit), and similar feats of elemental mastery may be performed. Drawback: the most boring of the specialist schools.

The more punk-rock specialist wizard is the Demonologist. We immediately understand this guy is heavy metal. Every level you gain d6 insanity points and a hideous disability from the Disability table (like the mutations you get as a wizard in DCC, only less fun and more crippling). Ability score loss, aversion to daylight, hideous appearance, allergies to common materials and so on. Fortunately ability score loss may be offset with a prohibitively expensive tonic, the creation of which requires components from rare monsters and which is addictive in the extreme, withdrawal of which means death. A nice nodd to Elric of Melniboné.

Is it worth it though? Uh…only if you are nuts. You can (naturally) summon and bind Demons from the Warp to carry out your commands but binding one might cost you a point of Toughness (don’t worry you can drink the delicious addictive Tonic of death!!!) and requires you to offer the Demon something in return (uh oh). Each time you summon the demon afterward you have to roll to control it with possibly lethal results, again. Thankfully you can always learn spells to protect you from demons or banish them back. For those Demonologists unhappy with being the hollowed-out thralls of nebulous cackling nether-things, there are also spells allowing you to mainline demonic power directly, giving you access to more spellpoints, spells and characteristic increases, at the paltry cost of a Disability upon learning them and 1 insanity point per casting.
Drawback: The Life-expectancy of a kamikaze-pilot on Crystal Meth. Requires about the same risk-aversion of the above to make selection of this class a viable option.

Last and certainly not least comes the noble Necromancer. Like the Demonologist the Necromancer also gains a disability at each level, but is spared the insanity. Instead he gains a unique insanity called Morbidity, representing a desire to discover the secrets of eternal life, and an increasing percentage chance of contracting Tomb Rot. While various corpses may be animated from available raw materials, those Necromancers wishing to take a shortcut can always conjure their skeletal allies directly from the land of the dead, a process that might involve the permanent loss of Strength. Not to worry though, you can always drink THE TONIC OF LIFE! Necromantic spells involve the raising of zombies and skeletons, the raising of undead champions to command them in your stead, the odd boost to your area of control, a few deadly touch attacks and cool necromantic shit like a spell that allows you to transfer your spirit in the bodies of your sworn enemies and a truly awesome Wind of Death spell that allows you to fucking murder 1.5 mile radius worth of living things.
Drawback: Unlikely to be able to attend the Elector Count’s ball any time soon.

To railroad your idiot players add balance to the game, many of the available spells have spell components like a pint of dragon’s blood, the pituitary gland of an ogre or the tail of a manticore or something. Really rare fucking things that might warrant a quest in and of themselves. Long story shot, magic in Warhammer is less common and even harder to use then it is in AD&D, truly an accomplishment.

Clerics and druids will be discussed in the next section on faith.

There is a section on magic items that is reminiscent of D&D without being a direct copy-paste. Still, the resemblance is striking. Amulets of protection against poison or sorcery, enchanted armour (+1 to +3), boots of leaping and of speed, the bizarre boots of Concealment (essentially boots of Holding), animated ropes that may be enticed to pick up weaponry and fight, potions of healing/disguise/strength/flight/tongues (as DnD as you can make it, but on the plus side each potion is given a complete recipe, spoiler: Making potions is fucking hard) and various rods and jewels that give you more spell points or spells in particular. Magical weapons should be similarly familiar, with a few exceptions. All magic weapons in Warhammer Fantasy are sentient and require a WP test to master upon first discovering them. Beyond that, we are given a magic weapon generation random table with the expected Bonus to Damage/characteristic gain/Ignore Armour/Reflect Spells/Cause Frenzy/Flame/Bane against creatures/Drain characteristics and add them to your own etc. etc. abilities that we see in every rpg. There is a lamentable lack of flavourful cool unique magic items, which is a shame. The mention of the mysterious Dawnstones, essentially sacred flint weapons with mystical powers and the addition of Runes adds a little extra to the table, but ending with a THIS SHALL BE DESCRIBED IN A LATER SUPPLEMENT is kind of shit.

Magic in Warhammer Fantasy is sufficiently different from DnD while retaining the overal feel to avoid obvious griping and some of the Specialist classes are kind of cool but overal I feel this section could use expansion, which it got in the later Realms of Sorcery expansion. There is some cool shit here but it all feels rather generic, something which later editions would strive to rectify. The biggest dissapointment is the generic magic item section 😦

Edit: I neglected to mention the existence of the somewhat shittier Alchemist Class, a house-brand wizard variety which does have access to the Metallurgy and Chemistry skills to enable him to fashion gunpowder and other substances, but this goes as the cost of spellcasting capability. Alchemists learn Magic one level later then ordinary Wizards and can never cast 4th level spells. While it is easier to get access to the Manufacture potion skill, the Alchemist is, on the whole, inferior to his arcane counterpart.


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