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Tag Archives: Magic

Re-evaluating Magic: The Gathering

Image.ashxLately I reconsidered my disdain for Magic: The Gathering; I even spent a lot of money buying new cards, and found my old cards back at my parents’ place. I bought Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 for my tablet and had a blast playing it. Despite all the misgivings about the game in the community it has a rather nice structure for new players, or those that haven’t played it for close to 20 years.

Did anyone notice that Magic turned 20 in 2013? How is time going by so quickly?

I originally gave up on Magic in about ’97 or ’98. I think I was one of the first people in my region to even know what a trading card game was, and most likely one of the first ones to buy the game at all (the German 3rd edition starter set, and the Renaissance reprint set). I weathered the Homelands expansion (still widely maligned to be one of the worst ever, but with a lot of flavor and amazing art), had a lot of fun with Mirage and Visions (which had an amazing Africa inspired theme that has not been repeated since), and then hit a roadblock during the Weatherlight saga.

Image.ashx2It was Serra Avatar that killed it for me back then. I had not graduated to buying large amounts of boosters and starter sets, and when my neighbour managed to get a card collection multiple times the size of my own, just a month after I introduced him to the game, I knew I was in trouble. And then he played Serra Avatar (a creature with toughness and power equal to the life of its controller) and I knew I wouldn’t manage to compete.

Well, I guess I could have. If I spent more of my money on trying to catch up.

The problem was that I didn’t want to. I already was deeply into RPGs, and I decided that I’d rather spend more money buying books and other supplements than  cards. So there was that.

I sometimes would buy a few boosters afterwards, but around ’02 or ’03 the art direction became so grating that I stopped doing even that.

Then a few months ago El Goonish Shive had an arc set during the equivalent of a Magic tournament. El Goonish Shive is a webcomic that has been running for a long time now. There is shapechanging squirrel hybrids and anime style martial artists in there. There is a lot of weird sexual fetish stuff without anything really overt in there. And then at one point an arc with lots of important plot development was set at a Magical Gatherings tournament. One of the characters works in a comic shop, and they have a weekly tournament.

And while reading this I was thinking: hey, that reminds me, that game wasn’t actually so bad.

And it has gotten better in the time I was away. I only noticed it after starting the computer game, but the rules have been straightened out a bit, card design has been changed, the art has matured a bit, etc.

Mana burn is gone for example. No more damage points if you miscount how many lands you tapped. Interrupts are gone, folded into instants. Creatures have become stronger to make them a feasible choice against spells.

Mulligans have changed as well and created an even deeper tactical part. Instead of just doing the Mulligan when one has either no or only lands, now everyone is allowed to reshuffle and draw again (minus one card) if the initial draw is not good enough.

The game has sped up. Stuff is happening in the game. There is constant action instead of a slow slugging of cards against each other. I guess this is what happens when you actually try to learn from your mistakes and try to improve a game over the course of 20 years. Not everything is perfect, but I dig the current version of Magic much more than the one I used to play.

[Labyrinth Lord] Spellslot System

Spellslot System (aka The Even-more-Vancian-and-a-bit-Pratchettian System)

When Magic users gain experience they gain a better understanding for the workings of magic and wizardry. Their mind becomes more capable of holding more and more spells of smaller sizes, or spells of larger size.

Magic users basically can exchange the spells they have memorized in between levels in a ratio of 2:1, meaning two spells of a lower level are worth 1 spell of the next higher level, and the other way around. This can also be used over multiple spell levels.

Example: So, the sorceress Linda (2nd level) just found a scroll with a second level spell and dutifully copies it into her spellbook. The next day she and her companions are in an area in which this spell might come in handy, so she does not memorize her two first level spells, but one 2nd level one instead.

Spells are fickle beings, a sort of memetic daemon that exists only to fulfill it’s use and then disappears (which is why magic users have to relearn their spells every time they have cast them). They also are a bit jealous of other spells and want to be treated right. A magic user can only ever safely learn a single spell once a day (so only one of each kind of spell) and it might feel cramped if the magic user doesn’t have a slot for this kind of spell yet. If this is the case the magic user is in Overcast state, which is a bit like carrying around an unsecured weapon. If the spellcaster fails any save during this time or loses hitpoints 1d4 spells are released randomly. If the fail is critical then all the spells are randomly released. In this case the GM decides what exactly happens.

Example: Linda prepared a web spell that was over her limit. The she and her companions are surprised by a couple of crafty kobolds shooting darts at them. The wound was only small, but smarted like hell.

“Ouch!” says Linda and loses concentration. All of a sudden glibbery white mass is sprouting all around her and her companions and keeps them from moving. Now they can hear the hollering and whistling of the kobolds as they prepare another volley of darts, and there is no way to run from them…

Random Spell Release Table

  1. all the spells just disappear in an explosion of shining light *poof*
  1. all the spells hit the spellcaster and everybody around (both friends and enemies), random determination of who gets hit by what
  1. half the spells hit everybody, the rest just disappears without any effect
  1. the spells cause 1d6 imps to appear out of thin air. They will hang around for another 1d6 hours and play the most imaginative and dangerous pranks possible
  1. the spells manifest themselves as magic daemons and linger around
  1. The spells manifest themselves as magic daemones and wander off somewhere else


This small creature looks like a whirl of energy, somehow similar to the spell it technically is. It gets bigger with spell level and can be baited onto a piece of paper and pergament, creating a scroll, or captured in a jar. If it attacks it will just use the spell it is made of as an attack and disappear into nothing.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 4 – Spiritual

with religious researchers discovering more and more gods nearly every week somebody needs to take care of worshipping them. Priests are generally a bit underpowered in comparison to other classes, but they do great things in local communities, be it bringing together the youth and the old people of Sto Lat, celebrating the most wonderful sacrifices possible, or putting a stake through the local vampire’s heart.
In other words: the traditional cleric. As in D&D/AD&D rules, maybe some care should be taken to allow only appropriate spells, but I guess that could be the players job.

The Monks of Cool, whose tiny and exclusive monastery is hidden in a really cool and laid-back valley in the lower Ramtops, have a passing-out test for a novice. He is taken into a room full of all types of clothing and asked: Yo, my son, which of these is the most stylish thing to wear? And the correct answer is: Hey, whatever I select.

-Terry Pratchett; Lords and Ladies


standard monk, there seems to be a veritable amount of monasteries worshipping various principles in some distant locations, e.g. the Monks of History, the Listening Monks, and the Temple of Cool. One should try to adapt the character’s abilities to fit his order, but otherwise simply a D&D Mystic/AD&D Monk.

more interested in building newer and better stone circles than in nature, but still there, especially in Llamedos and on the Vortex Plains, but also in various other locales. Use AD&D druids or own variants.

Do I see a theme here? So far most of the classes do not even need any further twisting. I should create some spell lists with appropriate spell names for Magic Users and Clerics (I should call them priests though), but otherwise so far most things can be done by typical D&D classes. I am a bit unsure about the Paladin because it feels rather unDiscworld, and I think the Ranger might be missing. On the other hand there is no mention in the books of any sort of ranger class.