Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review: Pyramid 3-91: Thaumatology IV

Today, it's time to review the May 2016 Pyramid: Thaumatology IV.  Anyone reading should know by now that I'm a big fan of the standard magic system, so these sort of issues are always right up my alley.

Technomysticism by W. A. Frick

This is an article geared towards GURPS Monster Hunters, and I don't own or use that series, so I skipped this one entirely.

Grade: No grade on this one; I don't like Monster Hunters so I didn't even read it beyond the intro.

The Tome of the Black Island by J. Edward Tremlett

This article centers around a black magic grimoire a-la the Necronomicon or Conan's Books of Skelos.  The background is interesting, and creepy as black magic should be.  It looks like the germ of a good idea, but there's not enough information about the spells included in the book to make them useful.  The game rules here are too bare bones, and the spell descriptions are missing any mention of any of the existing GURPS magic systems, which I find to be a fatal flaw in a GURPS article.

Grade: D.  A simple paragraph or two, or an inset with stats for at least the standard magic system or even Ritual Path Magic would easily have made this one a B, but for me it would be much more work than it's worth to write up detailed write-ups of all the spells.

Update: PK reminded me on the forums that the color codes for the articles have meaning.  I don't pay that much attention, usually, as I think of Pyramid as the GURPS magazine so anything in it should relate to GURPS, but it's certainly accurate that my judgement of the article  was unfair based on that .

Revised Grade:  C.It's no more usable to me in it's current format but lacking any relevant GURPS statistics is irrelevant.

Eidetic Memory: Dark Alchemy by David L. Pulver

This article is about evil alchemy, more or less. I think with two big articles about naughty magic you have the seed of a good Halloween Thaumatology issue here. I liked the elixirs and found most of them immediately useful, and I always like articles about Alchemy anyway.

Grade: A.  Good and usable stuff here, which fits my games with minimal tweaking.

The Thaumaturgy of Metallurgy by Ted Brock

An expansion for GURPS Magic, we get the College of Metal here.  There are some really good spells in here, and it's a good addition with notes about spells already in the magic system. I have to say both that I like the Anvil Strike spell since it puts me in mind of Bugs Bunny and that it's a bit too cartoony for my use.

Grade: A.  Another solid one that I'm seriously thinking about putting in to my gameworld with some minor adjustments.

Codex Duello by Christopher R. Rice

A duelling system for spellcasters, this article is something I didn't even know I wanted.  The general framework is really good, and I like the idea of a mutually created magical shield that keeps bystanders safe.

The stages of the magical duel are evocative and there are a couple of ideas I may develop more.  For a while now I've been giving Wands, Staffs, and Rods all a +2 to offset Regular and Area range penalties instead of reducing range by their length.  I'm going to riff off the Foci mentioned here into more of a range of things that can reduce the penalty from anywhere from 1 to 4 based on the price.  It would give me a reason to present a "wand of hawthorn with a core of basilisk sinew" or similar descriptors like in Harry Potter, and it could make the Focus of a particular PC or NPC mage more vivid, which is always a good thing.

Grade: A+.  Really top notch.

Random Thought Table: The Power of a Good Reputation by Steven Marsh

Fame as magical power.  This one's a bit far out for me and I don't think I'd use it but it's a neat idea nonetheless.

Grade: B.  I'm not going to use it but it's a cool concept.

Final Grade: B.  A good issue overall, but I found one of the articles had some serious flaws.

Revised Grade: A-.  "The Tome of the Black Island" wasn't a strictly GURPS article so I regraded it.


  1. Hmm. I like the idea of price-and-feature dependent bonus for staves and wands. I might have to play around with that.

    1. My own initial thoughts are that if the basic Staff is $40 (Staff + Spell), that should be the minimum for a +1, and the costs for Broadswords might make good thresholds for the higher bonuses (or, $600, $2400, $12000 as in Good, Fine, and Very Fine.) That gives me some starting CFs (+14, +59, +299) that I can consider further.