"Sorcerers begin with three spells, determined randomly. New spells must be discovered in play. An intelligence check or similar roll is required to learn a new spell. If this check is failed, the spell may never be learned by the sorcerer. This rule makes each sorcerer's complement of spells somewhat unique."
Simply,easy, without any sort of middle system screwing around when it comes to the occult goings on. This is an approach that we'll see repeated throughout Wonder and Wickedness. At the center of Wonder and Wickedness is the idea of levelless magic and adding in many elements of occult flavor to expand upon the traditional D&D system. Wonder and Wickedness does this surprisingly well! The magic dueling system, maleficence rules, spell mishaps, magic items, & spells all can be dropped seamlessly into an OSR or Old school system game. The wizards in this book are dangerous folk, shunned by normal good people and with good reason. Magick is dangerous, far from normal and really horrid at times. Just the way I personally like it.
These spells are without the traditional restrictions on level and have a rather unique feel, there is excellent artwork throughout the product that adds to it without distracting from the magick nature of it. The spells are excellently laid out with common sense and there's a balance of power about them. The rules for wizard duels are classic and give the wizard a sense of power and expands the role of the wizard three fold. Wizards are not simply spell throwing plasma casters, they have far more subtle power because of these optional rules. But its the tone of the spells that gets me. They have consequences, dangerous and mysteries about them build into the background. There's a sense of the free form & danger in these spells that adds a little more substance to too them.
We get a number of disciplines and specializations that spells are divided into the following specialties are available in this product:
These aren't another re skinning of the various spells from OD&D or Swords & Wizardry, in many cases this is a complete reworking of the spell with dire and dangerous consequences. This is actually the way it should be. Magick is dangerous and can be unpredictable. For example instead of the usual 'light' style spells your PC wizard summons a 'gleam'.
Conjure a hovering magical spirit of radiance that does not
shed heat, does not require air, and is not doused by water. A
gleam per level may be summoned and the illumination of each
is similar to torchlight.
Gleams may be directed to bedevil enemies, which will cause
temporary blindness if a saving throw is failed as long as the
spirit remains engaged
Once again everything is laid bare for the dungeon master to use or discard this system and material as necessary. Personally, I believe that this book is very necessary for a campaign to grow in occult scope in the way that Wonder & Wickedness lays out. This straightforward no nonsense yet mystical approach is seen in the treasures and wonders that this book lays out. Many of these treasures and relics feel like they came straight out of the Fighting Fantasy books of yore.But in good way not the way seems like hey the author cracked open his old books and copied XYZ treasure. These feel mythic and legendary like something that would come around in an adventure once or twice a campaign. Use these sparely is my advice to the Dungeon Masters out there.
The Necromancy chapters are some of my favorite bits in Wonder & Wickedness. This chapter gives a dungeon master flavor, a sense of the forbidden and weird like something from an old radio program of ghosts, ghouls and ghasts. There is spell list after spell list like this. If your into DYI dungeons and dragons and not afraid to experiment with your players and your world's occult background then grab this book.
Are there downsides to this book? Yes there are a few in my humble opinion. The first is the fact that Wonder & Wickedness isn't a whole secondary magic system into itself. The breath and scope of the work makes me want this occult and spell system separate from the Vancian system itself. This opinion of mine dovetails into the second thing that bothers me about Wonder & Wickedness folks may pass this wonderful gem of a book by because they're not willing to take the risk to try this system or its contents. This whole product is designed to seamlessly piggy back right into a campaign or old school rpg system for some really nice magical options. I can see using this system with a DYI D&D campaign built entirely around Wonder & Wickedness. Five out of five with a few very minor quibbles.