Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Thaumaturgies Colleges of DragonQuest

Decided I would just go through and do quick and dirty reviews of the various Colleges of DragonQuest.  Going to break it up into multiple part by the original three branches and then those in Arcane Wisdom.

Disclaimer:  My opinions are my own and I'm not saying that other DragonQuest GMs or players are doing it wrong if they disagree with my assessments.  While many of my comments do point out what I consider to be flaws or shortcomings in the Colleges and spells that shouldn't be taken to mean that I think the overall magic system is itself badly flawed or broken.  On the contrary, I think DragonQuest's system of ranking spells individually and having multiple Colleges is brilliant.

So without further ado - on to The Thaumaturgies.


Witchsight (T-1)

Why doesn't it include the night-vision of an elf like all other versions of this Talent?   In my opinion it should.

Spell of Telekinesis (G-2)
“Allows the Adept to lift 2 pounds and move it at the rate of one mile an hour. The Adept may move an additional 5 pounds or move the chosen mass at an additional 2 miles an hour per Rank.”
One mile an hour? How is that a useful measure in, well, any situation that is likely to come up in DragonQuest?  This should have been expressed in units that make sense for DQ's Tactical and Chase stages. One MPH is 7.33 feet per pulse or not quite 1.5 hexes.  Should probably be changed to 3 hexes per pulse plus 3 additional per Rank.

Spell of Speaking to Enchanted Creatures (G-5)
“The spell gives the Adept the ability to speak and understand the language of all magical creatures.”
Which “magical creatures” are those? Unicorns? Having a language implies sentience. Are Unicorns sentient? There isn't a “magical creatures” section in VIII Monsters. There is Fantastical Beasts which includes Unicorns but also Chimaera, Manticore and Giant Amoebas. Do they share a common language? The actual name of the spell says, “Enchanted Creatures” so that would be princes that have been turned into a frog? I don't know. One of the worst spell descriptions in the rules.

Spell of Location (G-6)
“The direction will be indicated by a large glowing arrow.”
Is this visible to just the Adept who cast the spell or everybody?  I've always assumed everybody otherwise why describe it in such a way.

Ritual of Creating Sleep Dust (Q-3)
Ritual of Manufacturing Poison Dust (Q-4)
“The Adept must spend 3 hours preparing and implementing this ritual and must expend 10,000 Silver Pennies (-500 per Rank) to purchase the necessary ingredients...”
Others have also commented on this but that is just stupidly expensive to start and what possible rationale is there to explain it becoming free at Rank 20. Why would anyone ever spend 5000, let alone 10,000 SP, on a one shot sleep (or poison) dust when they can get a sleep spell invested into an item or just buy poison from an Alchemist. Nothing about these two makes sense.

Spell of Opening (S-3)
Mage Lock Spell (S-6)
“(Spell of Opening) Instantly opens locks, bolts, and doors, including those locked by the Mage Lock Spell (S-6).”
So an Adept with Rank 0 in Opening can open a Mage Lock at Rank 20. That seems too simple. I would say that the cast chance should be reduced by twice the difference between the ranks when the Spell of Opening is lower than Mage Lock. A Spell of Opening cast at Rank 8 (54% nominally) on a Mage Locked door at Rank 16 would have the cast chance reduced by (16 – 8) x 2 = 16%. When Spell of Opening is the higher ranked of the two spells subtract 1% per Rank of the Mage Lock spell.

Spell of Quickness (S-12)
“The target's TMR is doubled, his Initiative Value is increased by 10, and he can perform Actions twice as fast.”
More or less implied but it should have been stated that the target may make two melee attacks per Pulse, load a missile weapon and fire in the same pulse or prepare a spell and cast in the same pulse.  Unless that wasn't what was meant in which case it should have made that clear as well.

Ensorcelments and Enchantments deserves to have a couple of Special Knowledge rituals.  Especially to make up for the totally useless Q-3 and Q-4.


The Arcane Wisdom Designer Notes for this college says this college was modeled after the Deryni books but I've never thought it had the feel of those books at all.

Molecular Rearrangement (S-5)
“The Adept may rearrange the cells of any object that fails to resist, turning it into anything of the same mass that he desires.”
 That is a seriously unhelpful description. It works on “cells” so we are talking living or once-living “objects”. So the Adept could turn a dog into a goat? Or just into a goat shaped blob of cells in a very messy, painful death? What about something dragon-sized? Or maybe it could be used to fix the scarring from a serious burn. Given the high experience multiple and the 1% base chance I am guessing it was meant to have really extreme effects. That it has a duration makes it more complicated. After you've turned someone inside out with the spell do they revert back to their original form when the spell stops?

Spell of Telekinesis (S-9)

Same issue as with G-2 of Ensorcelments and Enchantments.

Ritual of Binding Elements (R-1)

I just don't see this as fitting with the other psionic powers of the college.


I have a couple issues with this college that are somewhat philosophical about the nature of the illusions. From the Designer Notes essay we know that:

"In answer to the ever present theoretical question, the illusions do actually exist; they are not simply inside the viewer's mind."

Say an Adept creates an illusion of a burning torch or a man holding a burning torch. Does it illuminate the area around the illusion or does it just create the illusion that the area around it is illuminated? For an entity to perceive an object visually then light must travel from the object to the viewers eyes. This would suggest that a visual illusion must either reflect existing light or must create light that is then transmitted or reflected to the viewer. If the illusion does not include a tactile component that would suggest that it cannot reflect light any more than it could stop raindrops. This would mean that the visual only illusions, in order to be seen, must transmit light such that the illusion appears to be naturally illuminated. This would not be the illusion of light but actual light. An illusion of a burning torch must transmit light for it to be seen. So an Illusionist could cast a visual illusion of holding a brightly burning torch and illuminate as much of an area as he or she might choose to do. However what if an observer were to question the reality of this torch and disbelieve it. What would be the effect. My take is that nothing would change. The torch would still look like a torch and would still illuminate just the same only now the observer would be sure that something was not quite right with it.

From the rules we also know that only an illusion with a tactile component and one affecting the entities primary sense can cause injury or death. The rules don't address just how it is that this damage presents itself.  If an entity “falls” into the illusion of a 40 foot pit with nasty spikes at the bottom (16 points of Endurance from the fall plus the spikes) his body isn't going to be broken and punctured is it? If not then the damage is all “in his mind” right? Can a Healer heal this damage? How about a healing potion or G-6 from Earth Magics? If the entity isn't killed outright could he be healed via hypnotism (G-5, Sorceries of the Mind)?  Lethal damage can be explained as perhaps an aneurysm in the brain causing a stroke or perhaps a heart attack causing death. But less than lethal damage is trickier. How about the illusion of a jet of flame from a trap. Is actual damage done or just the illusion of damage?   Is the damage visible to others (whether real or not)? If the illusion only lasts long enough to project the jet of flame does the target keep believing that his flesh is burned? If a companion tells him that the flames were an illusion and he disbelieves does the damage go away?

The Designer Notes also say, “Discipline is again important, as the essence of their work is the imposition of their will over the will of the viewer, making them believe in what is not.” Yet Willpower only factors in on the caster side and not on the viewer side. The viewer's Perception and not Willpower is used to disbelieve.  There is no resistance check for illusions.

One last question.  Can illusions be invested or made permanent?  If not then that would also suggest that one of the staples of fantasy RPG dungeons, illusionary walls and floors, can't be done in DragonQuest.  I would say no.  That Illusions are concentration spells that take too much “management” to work correctly if invested.  Any permanent illusions that an adventuring party might encounter were created via powerful magics that have been lost to the mists of time.


I mentioned my biggest issue with Namers and Generic True Names in my post on AoE & Wall spells. They are an NPC only College in my campaigns and generally employed by the nobility or the leaders of powerful organizations and guilds.

Their General Knowledge spells are the counterspells of the other Colleges and I don't have any issues with them.  Same with the few other spells and rituals of Naming.

The next post will cover The Elemental Colleges of DragonQuest.

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