Saturday, 21 July 2012

World of Warcraft - More Magic & Mayhem

First of all, sorry for being late with the review. I'd say that I was too busy with legitimate things like work and study, but actually I was just watching digimon and playing/modding Skyrim in my free time. Anyway, on to the next RPG book: More Magic & Mayhem. Yes, a sequel to magic & mayhem, a book with horrid magic but great mayhem. Let's see whether this book is better or worse.

Chapter One: Spell Slingers and Gear Grinders
We start our book off with the introduction of new classes.

Core Classes
Inscriber: A new path for the arcanist, giving him access to some of the runic magic you may remember from the previous book. However, there is an important distinction given between Inscribers and Runemasters, with Inscribers just being specialised mages, while runemasters follow their own unique path. It's a pretty interesting distinction, though I'm still missing any references to the scourge rune magic.

Witch Doctor: A new path for the healer, specialising in alchemical brews and voodoo. They actually get some pretty interesting mechanics for making brews, and I really like their execution.

Runemaster: This book gives us a lot more depth on the backstory for runes than the original magic&mayhem did, with runes being recreations of natural ley patterns. I really like the explanation, as it is the perfect explanation for how runic magic can be considered more natural than other arcane magic.

Prestige Classes
Argent Dawn Templar: Using ancient teachings of the light, the argent dawn has unlocked many secrets. In return for the sacrifice of old paladin and priest powers, the templar gains new abilities to aid in battle against all forms of evil, rather than just demons and undead. While the concept is interesting, I do still have issues with this class for one simple reason: Why does the Argent Dawn have access to this class? The argent dawn consists of a bunch of paladins and priests living in a small church of the holy light in scourge-occupied territory. Where in the world did they (and only they) get these ancient secrets of the light, if the church they occupy used to belong to the kingdom of Lordaeron? And why would the argent dawn, which exists solely to fight the demons and scourge, need warriors specialised in fighting all forms evil rather than just those two?

Enchanter: Like the trade skill in world of warcraft, the enchanter specialises in creating magical items. The enchanter doesn't really seem like a fun class to play with, but it could come in handy for NPCs.

Ley Walker: Arcane magic in the warcraft universe relies on so-called ley lines, energy patterns that originate from the well of eternity (and presumably the sunwell). The ley walkers are those who study these lines more closely, allowing them to manipulate them directly. However, the entire article makes one really annoying mistake, by mentioning that all magic is dependent on the ley lines, rather than just arcane magic. Because of this, its suddenly the tauren and the night elves, both races that don't practice arcane magic, that have the most ley walkers. Still, the class looks fun to play with.

Steam Warrior: The only class in the book that focuses on the mayhem part of the title. Steam warriors pilot giant suits of mechanical armour into battle. The class looks awesome and the description works fine, though there is a weird mention of how odd it is that trolls take well to the life of a steamwarrior. Since it is indeed odd (the trolls being the least technologically inclined playable race, even less so than the lift-building tauren), I would really like some elaboration on that point.

The book adds feats that can roughly be divided into four groups: Alchemy feats, tech feats, rune enhancement feats and a couple of normal spell feats. The alchemy feats are really boring, as are most of the rune and tech feats. However, there are a few nice ones in there, like the one that allows you to create a rune that doesn't immediately take effect or the spellbreaker feat, which allows you to destroy spell slots along with health when you attack. Overall, a pretty decent selection.

Chapter two: Enchantments, runes and Brews
We get our new crafting mechanisms this chapter.

Alchemy is available to those who have taken the journeyman alchemist feat, allowing them to make draughts, philters and oils, as well as perform transmutations. It's a nice way to combine the alchemy system from world of warcraft with the d20 rules. I don't really like how they combined it with herbalism though, which only serves to automatically lower the costs of alchemy (but never by more than half). However, pretty much all the alchemy recipes from world of warcraft have been given stats here, so thats a very big plus.

Simply an update to the world of warcraft mechanics to work in the d20 system, which works well enough.

The runic art
Gives us details on the casting of runes. It's a bit of a retread of the original magic&mayhem, but we're at least given some interesting new lore. Oh, and we get regular arcane magic being called supreme hubris, because it dares make use of non-natural arcane patterns. Considering that the “natural” arcane patterns were created by the titans and they made Malygos, aspect of magic, I highly doubt they would have minded. Still, runecasting is very well-done, fits the setting and looks like it'd be a lot of fun to play with.

Rune patterns
Just a listing of new rune patterns. It also has a few pictures to make us see what two of the rune families look like. They look really cool, making me wish they had included pictures for all 11 rune families. Also, it fixed the mark of the werewolf from magic & mayhem, renaming it to mark of the worgen. Mark of the badger still induces great rage though.

Chapter three: Power Overwhelming
And we get our regular spells, including a few new spell types imported from world of warcraft: blessing, seals and totems. I'm fine with the former two, but instant totem placement always felt more like a game mechanism in world of warcraft, rather than how the spell actually works. I always assumed that characters were carrying the actual totems.

The normal spell-list includes a lot of the spells from world of warcraft and warcraft III that hadn't gotten rules yet.

Chapter Four: So shiny!
Time for new magic items!

Amongst the new magic head items are phylacteries. As a name choice, thats kind of confusing, since phylactery in fantasy usually refers to the place where a lich stores his soul. I didn't even know it had another meaning, but apparently they're small black boxes filled with Torah prayers worn on the forehead during morning prayers. Judaism doesn't exist in the warcraft universe, so I'm guessing that they're filled with prayers from another sort of holy book. But... what holy book? The description says the only established phylactery, the phylactery of faithfulness, is commonly used by both the knights of the silver hand and the night elves and is spreading in use amongst the horde. However, those three groups have completely different religions, none of which are established as having a holy book.

Overall, the magic items are pretty damn good and there is a lot of them, with over 60 pages dedicated to this chapter. There are some minor lore errors in the book, but not that many. The only one that is really notable is the description of bloodstone ore, which doesn't fit with the description given in world of warcraft at all.

Chapter Five: Things that go boom in the night
Like in the original Magic & Mayhem, the book really isn't good at mixing the two aspects, focusing mostly on magic. Only now, at page 163 out of a 200 page book do we finally get some focus on technology. Which is a shame, since its usually the best part.

Remember how the RPG keeps calling arcane magic evil and destructive even though the backstory for the games prove it can actually be used safely? Well, this chapter is nothing like that. According to this chapter, all magic is evil and destructive. It also has a number of weird statements like technology being easier to master than magic (could be true for arcane magic, but definitely not for divine magic), all magic requiring sacrifice and technology being more reliable than magic.

Next comes a description of the uses of magic in the world, giving descriptions for the alliance, the horde and the goblins. Oddly enough, the viewpoints of the high elves and the forsaken are never mentioned. Still, its a nice and simple explanation.

Tech-mods are technological weapon/armor enhancements. They're limited by the fact that they need electricity to work and power sources aren't exactly reliable. The tech-mods themselves are actually pretty cool, including good old classics like chainsaws (called Chatter blades) and silent guns, but also includes fun stuff like boring bullets, which drill into armor.

Steam Armor
Battle rules for your own private goblin shredder armor! I really like the way this operates, with critical hits being capable of destroying steam armor equipment. I find the steam armor weapon and armor lists a bit on the short side, though the equipment list is cool. Not really sure I like the idea of armour-repairing miniature robots though. Seems a bit too high-tech.

Technological Devices
And to cap it off, we get a list of cool technological devices. My favourite has to be the chaos chicken, just for the idea of sending a legion of grenade-laying chickens at an enemy outpost.

The book was actually a lot better than I expected. Magic dominated the book, but it was well-written with far fewer lore contradictions than earlier books. I could see much of these things being added to world of warcraft. The only thing that I was missing in this book was adequate pictures. Sure, we got a few good illustrations, but not even a complete overview of the new weapons, like is usual in these D20 books. Still, the book gets an 8.5 out of 10 from me.

edit: Almost forgot to add. Next review is Day of the Dragon, the first of the warcraft novels by Richard A. Knaak.

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