Sunday, December 27, 2015

Retro Review Of The Complete Spell Caster By Stephen Michael Sechi & Vernie Taylor For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition And Your Old School Campaigns

The Complete Spell Caster By Stephen Michael Sechi & Vernie Taylor is fully worked out set of alternative classes from the guys at Bard games. This book came out in Eighty Five and I grabbed a copy from the closing of a game store in Boston in 90 something. Wiki lists the book as  The Compleat Spell Caster (1983) presented many variant magic-user classes. This is pretty much an understatement. Let me explain, back in Eighty Five there were a few companies that were presenting variation magic systems for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The craze for AD&D was red hot back then and the market had Arduin, and a few small press outfits. Bard Games already had a hit with the Complet Alchemist and now they hit the market with The Complet Spell Caster. This was a completely different take on the wizard of AD&D in a way.

 The book basically approaches spell casters as professions and professionals. The book looks at them as actual individuals and beings of magick with complete personalities with reasons and motives for doing what they do in dungeons and ruins. These weren't simply Dungeons and Dragons books they had tables for snap conversion to AD&D, Runequest, and other popular fantasy rpgs such as Arduin. There were reasons for this.
 The Complete Spell Caster By Stephen Michael Sechi & Vernie Taylor is a spell and magick system unto itself. Basically there were the  chart for the Mystic to turn undead and the same chart was used by the necromancer to control them. There's an air of the Arduin Grimoire about the book because of the typeface and the way that the seven levels for each class are laid out. There are four magick using classes each with sixty plus spells, they have their own experience charts flavor and solidly done backgrounds.
 Guidelines, materials, and rules are nicely laid out at the dungeon master's & player's feet. There are witches (warlocks), mystics, necromancers,sorcerers, and scribes. These PC classes are well done and finely tuned with some nice touches in between.
 You get a quick layout and a readable Arudin style text, many of these wizard classes I've used for B/X gaming over the years and the flavor here adds something to many basic games. Many of the classes in The Complete Spell Caster are now found in other retroclone publications but not all. The Witch in The Complete Spell Caster is a different sort of animal, she compliments but doesn't drink from the same source material as AD&D's druid class. In point of fact I've seen and used her with several parties with druids in them. The Mystic from  The Complete Spell Caster is a wizard cleric hybrid that serves a god and gains solid power but must not harm a living thing. This class has always reminded me of certain Arabian Night style wizards, they also gain the ability to turn undead. They're opposite number is the necromancer whose a damned dangerous class by themselves. These are the black magicians of legend and many Weird Tales, they're professional wizards delving into the black arcane and they are nasty pieces of work who if resurrected come back as a random creature of the undead. They've got a full array of spells to cause merry havoc for PC's or to be among their ranks.
 One of the things that made  The Complete Spell Caster a hoot is the alternative systems that were included as a part of the book. This included a complete system of familiars and backgrounds for summoned creatures much of this dove tailed into the sorcerer class which was sorcerer/scientist style class in the book, these were men and women delving into other worlds and dimensions for power and arcane secrets. Often PC's seemed to end up employed by one of these mad bastards for a research materials and what not.
 Circles of protection, runes, and other set ups for wards in the dungeon are encountered in their own section in the book and these were much needed by wizards. They were activated by an intelligence vs. to see if they were drawn properly. These were often obtained from Sages. The sage is only given a one page overview but for those who had seen Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger they knew exactly who the class had been modeled on. Sages were pieces of work that were jacks of the magickal trade whose expertise was sought and could be a boon to a party or a bane depending upon how they were played.

For me as a dungeon master the summoned creatures section was a favorite, there was a ton of sword and sorcery  flavor here and much of the material dovetailed into Arduin with several of the demon types almost but not quite fitting into the Arduin and Delos molds. This was the section of the book that caused a teacher during the height of the 'Satanic Panic' to burn The Complete Spell Caster and Dragon eighty five after finding it at the born again high school I attended.
 Doesn't matter because I got the last laugh anyway but that's a story for another time,  The Complete Spell Caster's demons are more like templates then fully fleshed out monsters and that's the way I've used them. As templates for Lovecraftian demons over the years, monster that are close to but not quite what PC wizards might be expecting.
 This book adds in a whole bevy of demons, devils, elementals and other planar creature most of which over the years I've used as templates for a wide variety of horrors from other dimensions. There's also some other worldly monsters that can be summoned. Surely these horrors are played out and from another age. Think again my friends these horrors are easily convertible to both B/X and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition and could be added into Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Carcosa quite easily giving a much needed monster boost to that title or used in your favorite sword and planet campaign.
 There are even angels and other horrors that can be added into other eras for a more tradition style of pseudo historical dark European game. The material here is interesting as well because we're lacking the Summoner class that would later appear in the Bard's Games Atlantis titles.
 Finally we get a quick overview of the horrors of magick in the form of the Major Arcana a grouping of ten magic spells of a very powerful and somewhat questionable nature. These are some of the secrets of magick that can be sprinkled into campaigns to lure wizards long the paths of power.

 The Complete Spell Caster also has six rather unique magic items that can and will change lives. On the whole  The Complete Spell Caster is a product of its time and has the distinction of being a rather interesting and unique book that has been cast into the shadow of Bard's Games legacy of the Atlantis books but I do think should you find it  The Complete Spell Caster is worth picking up there are several reasons for this. One the book is not that well known and therefore accessible for a DM who wants some rather interesting background and setting details that are both evocative of Eighties D&D and yet lesser known in the gamer circles. Two the occult  material here is easily adaptable to so many retroclone systems that it can serve as another tool in a DM's arsenal, and three I'm a sucker for wizards and spell caster classes,  The Complete Spell Caster has a lot to offer if a DM thinks outside the usual boxes.

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