Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Colleges from Arcane Wisdom

The unpublished Arcane Wisdom (until TSR's 3rd edition of DragonQuest) included three additional colleges for DragonQuest:  Lesser Summonings, Rune Magics and Shaping Magics.  The first two colleges provide the adventuring adept with some alternatives while Shaping Magics provides a means for NPC and PC adepts to create magic items ranging from the mundane to very powerful artifacts.  Though true for pretty much all magic colleges the DragonQuest GM should familiarize himself with these colleges before introducing them to his campaign.

I find this College to be problematic. This is essentially a college about enslaving both animals and sentient beings. The Adept summons or conjures creatures from wherever they are at and whatever they are doing to come be mounts, cannon fodder, spies or sometimes just food. Assuming the summoned entities aren't killed outright, when released they are left to their own devices to get back to where they came from, which might be as much as 140 miles away.

Wall of Thorns Spell (G-11)

I can kind of explain this as summoning the thorny plant from some other place but that is pretty weak as there are no other plant related spells in the College.  Obviously the designers just felt the College needed some type of protective spell so that the Adept doesn't get stomped into paste by the first unhappy creature he summons.

Spell of Summoning Fog (G-12)

Don't really see any justification for this College having this spell.

Empath Spell (G-13)

This seems like a pretty iffy spell to have in this College when so many others don't have a healing spell.  Should have stuck with sensing a creatures general mood and such without the healing aspects.

Summon Energy Spell (G-14)

Another spell that seems to be just thrown in. This and Bodily Possession are the only spells in the College where the Adept's Willpower factors into the Base Chance.

Spell of Bodily Possession (S-16)

Another spell that feels out of place to me.  The description sounds like Astral Projection as commonly used in fiction and RPG rules.  This spell, G-13 and G-14 seem more like spells from a Psionic college.


One of the more interesting colleges in DragonQuest though it comes with a cost to the player and the GM. There is a lot of bookkeeping needed to keep track of all the rune sticks the Rune Mage is likely to carry about and the GM will be called upon to determine availability of the different types of wood.  Fortunately charts are provided to detail weights and costs for Runesticks and Runewands but it will be up to the GM to determine how common or rare each wood type is in the game world.

Spell of Illusion (G-6)

This spell needed a bit more precision in its definition. The description says, “The image will
be inanimate and will remain even when touched.” and that it “will have tactile, auditory, olfactory, and visual elements (all though it will lack the mobility of the object it represents).” Which suggests that any illusion created would be completely static. For objects this is mostly fine but the spell also allows for the creation of the illusion of entities. Most living creatures are never entirely still unless dead. They are breathing, blinking, fidgeting and otherwise giving off indications that they are alive. So illusions created by this spell will always be less than perfect when it comes to representing entities. Others have pointed out that this makes sense from a balance standpoint as why be an Illusionist if you can be a Rune Mage and get full spectrum illusions as a General Knowledge spell. The description probably should have included more specific language that all illusions created would be completely static and that the Difficulty Factor for disbelieving them would be .5 or 1.0 lower.

Runelock Spell (G-9)

Description fails to mention whether or not the EE Spell of Opening would counter a Runelock.  I tend to think it should.  I also think a corresponding Rune of Opening spell should exist.

Ritual of Sending (Q-6)

Can this spell be blocked by the Mind Cloak spells of Sorceries of the Mind and Black Magics? My take is that they would block it.  Though perhaps this should be some type of opposed contest where a highly ranked Ritual of Sending may be able to break through a lower ranked Mind Cloak.

Spell of Summoning Totem Spirits (S-2)

This is a weird spell that doesn't really seem to fit with the College. Why three evil spirits? Are there no neutral or good totem spirits associated with Rune Magic?

Ritual of Casting the Runes (R-1)
Ritual of Creeping Doom (R-2)
Ritual of Rune Sacrifice (R-3)

There is nothing in the introductory text for the College or even in the Designer's Notes section that describe this College as being more aligned with the Powers of Darkness and yet these three rituals are firmly on the Dark side of things. All three make for good plot devices to kick off quests however a couple rituals that could be used by the good guys would have been nice.


Note: These comments are based upon the version of Shaping Magics found in the PDF floating around the internet and not the version found in the 3rd edition of the DragonQuest rules.

A magic college that allows player-characters to create actual magic items is pretty cool but the cost to make serious, permanent magic items is quite steep, time-consuming and not a little costly in terms of experience as all but the most minor of items will cause the Adept to lose both endurance and ranks in skills. All of which is good as otherwise it would be very easy to destroy campaign balance. The Shaping Adept has plenty of useful spells for adventuring even if it takes him decades before he considers making actual magic items.

The introductory section under [91.1] includes this statement:

In order to perform certain powerful rituals, a Shaper must permanently reduce his Endurance. Whenever Endurance is reduced in this way, Fatigue is reduced as well (according to the scale given in 5.3).

Curiously this directly contradicts the referenced rule [5.3] which says:

Once the character has been completely generated, a change in the character's Endurance value will not affect his Fatigue value, and vice-versa.

As Fatigue is not just a physical characteristic I prefer to stick with the [5.3] rule.

Spell of Mending (G-1)

As the characters in our groups manage to break a weapon at least once an adventure if not more often having a Shaper around that can fix them with this spell is great.

Ritual of Shaping Rag and String Golem (Q-1)

A couple Rag & String Golems can provide a significant boost to an adventuring party's capabilities. Load them up with a few different skills and a couple of spells and they can often turn the tide when things go pear-shaped.

Spell of Creating Mudslick (S-1)

This one seems very random to me. Why a mudslick? Having a crowd control spell is handy though so why not.

Ritual of Turning Stone to Flesh (R-1)

Without Shapers the poor schmucks that get turned to stone by a Basilisk or Gorgon are done for as no other college can reverse the process.

Ritual of Binding Investments (R-6)
Thus, if the Spell of Malignant Flames was invested in an object by the normal investment ritual and R-6 was successfully cast over the object, the Spell Malignant Flames could be cast from the item an unlimited number of times.
This is a stupidly over-powering ritual and one that flies in the face of a statement made in the section on Preparation Rituals.

Only those spells designed to affect only the wielder or some facet of his own person may be imbued into an object by preparation and binding rituals. Investment rituals may be performed on already enchanted items. This is designed to prevent "kill" spells, such as the Bolt of Fire from the College of Fire Magics, from freely being placed into items.

If the designers didn't want Shapers creating magic items (through an expensive and tedious process) that could fire Bolts of Fire with unlimited charges then why have a ritual that allows for the much more easily created invested items to do so?  From a balance perspective it is just nuts.

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