Magic World (Basic Roleplaying)
Cost: $38.95 (Physical)/$21.42 (Chaosium PDF)/$24.42 (DriveThruRPG)
Page Count: 276
Release Date: 2/19/2013 (Chaosium PDF and Physical)/04/08/2014 (DriveThruRPG)
Get it Here: Chaosium or DriveThruRPG.com
Magic World is over a year old, but we’re just reviewing it now as it got a soft re-release on DriveThruRPG.com, which provided me with a review copy. I’m not sure why we didn’t get a review copy when it was originally released in early 2013, but I’m sure we got the review copy now since they also sent us a review copy of the first sourcebook for Magic World, Advanced Sorcery at the same time. You can’t review the sourcebook without knowing the core rules, am I right? Well, better late than never as Magic World is a fine alternative to other fantasy RPGs like Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons and what have you. In fact, the core of Magic World is actually older than a lot of current fantasy RPGs. Magic World has essentially taken the rules and themes from many of the fantasy RPGs it no longer publishes like Elric, Stormbringer, RuneQuest and their respective supplements and merged them into a single cohesive package, not unlike Constructicons forming Devestator. The end result is a game that is somewhat new, somewhat familiar, and completely free of the costly licenses Chaosium would need in order to reprint the originals. Don’t think that Magic World is a complete reprint though, as new pieces have been added and some rules and/or wording have been reworked.
It’s important to note right off that bat that Magic World is its own stand-alone game. Unlike a lot of other Basic Roleplaying titles which require the system’s core rulebook in order to be used, Magic World has all the rules you need to play it tucked into its 276 pages. So there is no need to purchase anything but this one core rulebook in order to play the game. If you do already own Basic Roleplaying or other games that use nearly the same system (Like Call of Cthulhu), you will find that magic is done and wielded VERY differently. Keep that in mind lest you suffer a bit of culture shock.
For the most part, character creation is similar to that of BRP of CoC. Skills are different. You won’t have Mechanical Engineering or Physics as options. You will however, have potions, physic (healing), trap and scribe. Skills are also rearranged from alphabetical order into five major categories: Physical, Communication, Knowledge, Manipulation and Perception. Sanity and Know stats are replaced by Effort, Charisma, Stamina and Agility (all attribute x5 pieces). Occupations are also changes, to better fit a high fantasy setting rather than 1920s real world occupations or the like. You’ll also find something called “Allegiance.” Throughout your characters life they will gain (and/or lose) Allegiance points to Balance, Light and Shadow. Think of this as the alignment system for Magic World. Evil acts net you Shadow Points, Good acts net you light and thinking of nature and other life forms can net you Balance. Have an overwhelming amount of Allegiance points in one category rather than the others and you’ll get some in-game bonuses. This bonus increases if you ever hit 100. Shadow bonuses are a lot more powerful similar to Dark Force over Light Force points in the old d6 Star Wars game, which shows evil is an easier path to take.
The game system is very similar to BRP as well. You basically role percentile dice (d100) to see if you succeed or fail. There are critical and special successes if you roll especially well and fumble rolls if you roll poorly. The resistance chart is the same as it has always been. You earn experience in skills and attributes rather than in levels, which is how BRP games have always worked. So on and so forth. What’s different? Well, Magic primarily. You can’t cast magic unless you have a POW of 16 or higher. Compared that to other games where your POW score only means your potential and/or skill with magic. Look at Call of Cthulhu for example. You could have a POW of 13 there and be a damn good spellcaster. In Magic World, you don’t even have the ability to cast the simplest spell in the game. Again, this will take some time to get used to unless you’re an Elric vet. You’ll also find Magic Points regenerate fully in a 24 hour period. This means magic is a lot more powerful than in many other BRP settings. Compare that to Hit Points which regenerate at a speed of 1d3 a week. Magic is definitely king in Magic World. I should end this section on magic by saying anyone with a POW of 16 of greater starts the game with three spells. Those who take the occupation of Sorcerer during character creation get INT/2 spells. Priest, Shamans and Cultists get 1d6+3 spells.
As you can imagine, since Magic World is a more combat oriented game than other versions of BRP, there is a massive section on combat. This is the deepest and most detailed version of combat I’ve ever seen for a BRP game. Inside the combat section you’ll discover all sorts of grisly wounds that can befall both your character and its opponents, rules for ranged and mounted combat, how armor works, what a siege engine can do and so much more. This is probably the chapter you’ll want to spend the most time with, even if you are a longtime Basic Roleplaying fan, just due to all the options and changes that combat sees in Magic World.
Besides huge sections on both combat and magic, there is an entire chapter devoted just to seafaring. I was not expecting this to be honest as this is a topic usually reserved for supplements, if it even gets covered at all. Not so with Magic World. Here you get twenty full pages on ship stats, sample boats, how to make your own seafaring craft and lots of mechanics. Swimming in armor is here and well worth taking a look at. Most fantasy games seem to ignore how hard it actually would be to swim while wearing full plate.
What else will you find in Magic World? There’s a pretty thorough Bestiary ranging from real world animals to monstrous opponents. There’s a chapter for DMs on how to run a Magic World game, which also gives some magical artifacts and clockwork creature options. There’s also a long section on “The Southern Lands,” which is the default location for a Magic World game to take place on. It’s an interesting, if someone generic location with warring fantasy races, intrigue amongst Houses and lots of information on the Fey. The Southern Lands chapter also included story and campaign seeds that a GM can use to create their own adventures. Of course, if you’re looking for full-fledged published adventures, we’re more than a year into the existence of Magic World and none exist yet. In fact there is only the Advanced Sorcery supplement which just came out. This is because Chaosium is pretty wrapped up with Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and the Horror on the Orient Express remake. It is what it is. Magic World early purchasers may be a bit disappointed to see the game getting the short end of the stick, but take heart! One supplement is just the start and if you are really wanting more content for the game, just pick up some Runequest, Legend or Elric releases. They are mostly compatible and will serve you well. The key is just taking the time to track some down.
Overall, Magic World is a really well done release. It’s great to have some sort of Elric/Stormbringer remake available to the general public. The Basic Roleplay rules and system are exceptionally easy to learn and remain one of the best overall systems ever devised for tabletop gaming. Magic World is a great alternative to other high fantasy games and I know I’d play this over Pathfinder in a heartbeat. If you’re looking for a new fantasy style game to enjoy, definitely consider Magic World. It’s a year old, but many people are getting to hear about it for the first time with its release on DriveThruRPG.com. Better to pick up a high quality game late, rather than never, yes?