Free: Whitebox Wizardry, and one day maybe probably how to make it into a real book.

Some people asked: how do you start binding books?

By taking a course or just, you know, get needle and thread and fool around with paper.

Since not all of you might live in a city with a university or an art school, I made this:


This is going to be two things: first, PDF files to download and print. Get them here: normal PDF and imposition PDF. The first file is also handy to use on mobile. Don’t use the second on mobile: it’s to be printed duplex, folded in a specific way and bound.

Second, a small tutorial on how to make some small (literally, they are going to be in A7 format), utilitarian books to use at the table. I’ll try to stick to no-glue books, mostly because every time I used glue recently I more or less destroyed the whole book and got really upset (if you wonder why I’m not selling handbound stuff anymore, it’s because I’m cursed). I have no idea when the tutorial part is going to be out: the PDF took only some light finangling to do, but the tutorial will take a while to put together.


Khosura Street Blues: where I get lazy and tell you about how my campaign is going making a post with some pictures, plus an attempt at a Knotromancy School for W&W

I’ve been running one of the two Mageblade playtest campaigns in Khosura [post in Hungarian], written by the always awesome Gabor Lux. I’m playing a prewritten module because I’m playtesting and I’d rather spend more time evaluating how the game mechanics behave and not tinker with the world as I go: less prep is better prep. Also, Mageblade requires no adaptation whatsoever from your typical D&D, you only need to raise[lower] AC by 2.

(see what I did there? I made a funny).

At any rate, this is the amount of Khosuran underworld we explored in about 6-7 sessions.


Yes in Glasgow we drink a lot of Tennets. Those in the front of the screen are dead PCs to remind players that I am a cruel douchebag.

Khosura seems to be one of those dungeons where sessions alternate between exploratory (finding interesting stuff) and resolving (getting the sweet swag out). At any rate, the party last night was as usual not at its full. In order from right to left: Durgon the Fighter, Alyna (yep, that’s a rogue with a scumbag hat and a monkey), Cailan the Knotromancer with his rope.


Durgon is short because I clearly can’t draw, depicted with his re-re-replaced plate mail. Durgon uses a pollaxe, not a sword, sorry. Alyna has dagers, but never dual-wielded daggers in her life, and I think she actually never made an attack roll ever in two sessions as she always, always slithers away. She’s good at that. Sometimes Cailan goes around with a goat, but only for sacrifice purposes, blame Brendan, and he’s depicted with his pet magic rope. Spaturny not depicted, but he usually goes around with a bag on his head. Rhaegar is also absent, together wish his basilisk-in-a-cloaked-cage.

Wait, Knotcromancer? It’s complicated. In my games a lot of casters tend to study a field of magic but also necromancy, for obvious reasons: it’s a very concrete, god-of-the-flesh, effective, if totally unsubtle school, so its perfect for those adventury shit-hits-fan, make-or-break times.

But Cailan is not like that. Cailan is a necromancer that is totally ashamed of being a necromancer, and never admits being one. So I started calling him Not-romancer. And he got progressively more and more funny (and by funny, I really mean creepy and weird yet hilarious) about his magic pet rope.

At any rate, how did Cailan get his magic rope? I make starting PCs roll on the Kata Kumbas Inheritance Tables. This is the Summoner/MU table:


No game mechanics defined for at least half of these objects. Yes, you can get 4 geese or an axe that never misses its target or a plum shortcrust pie or a pet snake. Roll well.

So Spaturny got a Gnostic Gem of Healing (spend a mana to heal 1d6, once a day) and a Ring of the Sea Gods, while Cailan got a magic rope and a bottled metamorphic ectoplasm.


58 it is

So it happens that Kailan has a bit of an easy trigger with magic and ends up always with no mana too soon. This is col because he’s forced to deal with what he has available, which in this case is an enchanted rope that can move as long as he holds it. So he used it to lazo treasures away from traps, rescue comrades fallen in deep waters, and so on. And treat it like a pet. Sam (Kailan’s player) feared he was pissing me off with this creative use, but it’s totally, totally fine, and when I groan and facepalm is because I’m surprised by the player creativity.

So Gary asked if I meant Notromancer or Knotromancer, and obviously it’s both.

So, here’s a first selection of Knotromancy spells. All have a 50′ long rope as target.

Sorcery School of Knotromancy

Brendan, don’t worry, they are not for the revised W&W.

  1. Rope Trick – you know that spell you throw the rope up and can climb and hide in a nook between dimensions able to host 1 person for sorcerer level? that one. You can also pull the rope in the nook.
  2. Tangle – like Entangle, but with a rope, affects only enemies. Victims are still slowed by the rope even if they save. Can be deployed with a glyph.
  3. Shuffle the Mortal Coils  – Ropes to “Snakes” that are actually still ropes: a rope per level, HD: 3, AC: 7[13], DMG: 1 tight squeeze, Special: after hitting either pin or constrict for 1d8 damage. Each rope has a 5% chance per sorcerer level of being a deadly rope, and when constricting the victim must save vs death/paralysis or die. The spell can be reversed and make real snakes into ropes, splicing them together if needed, permanently. I’m going to remind you that permanent spells can be dispelled.
  4. Stupendous Strand – a held rope can be completely controlled in its motion and can be made incredibly rigid and impervious to damage. In combat can trip/disarm/whip as a magic whip +1.
  5. How Long is a String? – for a turn the sorcerer can extend the rope up to 100 yards per sorcerer level. It’s not stretched nor elastic, the spell simply makes the rope longer (and shorter) as needed, and only when wanted. If still elongated at the end of the spell, the rope unravels into long, impossibly narrow and very weak fibres.
  6. Rope is Always Handy – the rope ties itself around the caster and acts as a third, mind-controlled yet semi-sentient, fully capable hand. Grants an extra attack.
  7. Bind, like the one from Diabolism but with Ropes – because you’re not a Coenobite.
  8. Cat’s Cradle – the sorcerer does some complicated figure-work with a rope, in a complicated yet silent spell cast over many rounds. In the first round, the sorcerer makes an opening, which has no effect. Every following round the sorcerer can elaborate the figure and either unleash the figure’s power or hold it to elaborate it into a different figure next round. The sorcerer knows an opening plus 2 figures per level (which can be openings). This is a tree with some of the possible figures: from a figure it’s possible to make figures tabbed within it; so from cradle, mattress, then candles, then either saw (which is terminal, and must be unleashed) or diamonds, then cat’s eye, etc.
    1. Opening A: opening, no power
      1. Open the Gate: unlocks and opens a door within 10′.
      2. Find the Owl: Detect Avian, 200 yards radius
      3. Dugout Canoe: the rope becomes a dugout canoe.
        1. Crab: the rope become a cranky crab: AC:1[18], 1HD per sorcerer level, ATK: claws 2x1d6. While hostile to the sorcerer’s enemies, its not friendly to the sorcerer either.
      4. Path to the Well: as the Find Water spell.
    2. Opening B: Opening, no power
      1. Fire Drill: seats a nearby thing on fire. Even people.
      2. What Will You Do?: as Confusion, lasts 1d3 rounds
    3. Cradle: opening, no power
      1. Mattress: up to 1 HD per sorcerer level must save or falls asleep.
        1. Candles: the rope shines bright light for 1 hour
          1. Manger: the rope becomes a meal for a person per sorcerer level
            1. Saw: a object or being of wood within 30′ is cut in twain.
            2. Diamonds: the rope looks and feels as if it’s made of pure gold strands.
              1. Cat’s Eye: the sorcerer can see in near-darkness as if it was in full daylight
                1. Fish in a Dish: if offering some food to someone, the reaction is automatically improved by 1 step (similar to Bewitch).
                  1. Hand Drum: terrifying noises make all enemies of lower level than the sorcerer flee if they fail a save.
                    1. Lucky Tea Kettle: it enchants a kettle of warm brew, enough for 3 people; if immedialtely drank, the drinker can reroll a die in the next hour.
    4. Index: opening, no power
      1. Fish: the rope become a fish friendly to the caster with AC:5[14], 1HD per caster level, and of proportionate size. It can be ridden by a human for each HD over 2.
        1. Pig: like Fish, but a pig.
        2. Frog: like Fish, but a frog.
        3. Dazzle: everyone within 20′ must save or stare at the rope. Bedazzled victims are freed when shaken or attacked

None of these spells have been playtested (except those that are inspired by other spells), so CAVEAT EMPTOR.



Sneak Peek: Magia Nova: Il Novissimo Metodo Didattico delle Arti Magiche

Oh, the joys of writing something purely for D&D. I’ve been working on a word/runic magic system for a while and while I was at it I though I could just spin off one of its subsystems. I also took the occasion to make a book with all the S&W Whitebox spells, but organized by level and not in alphabetical order.
Yeah, I know, de gustibus non disputandum but there is clearly a WRONG and a RIGHT way, and the alphabetical sort is a pain in the ass when you’re trying to allocate slots and need to check spell details across the level. Which is much a much more common scenario compared to, say, check spell details across the spells starting with the letter S. If you need to find a spell by name, an analytical index will do.
Hence Magia Nova! The principle of this new didactic method is a blah blah taxonomic approach blah blah system of mysticism blah blah correspondences blah blah great pedagogy blah blah left hand, right hand blah blah. Ok, enough babble. The whole point is that the Magic User will learn Arts and Elements instead of single spells.

Four are the Arts:

  • Creo for Creation
  • Disfo for Undoing
  • Sento for Perception
  • Cambio for Change and Control
Four are the Elements:
  • Foco for Fire and therefore Magic
  • Aria for Air and therefore Spirit and Perception
  • Aqua for Water and therefore Life
  • Terra for Earth and therefore Matter

The casters start by knowing an Art and an Element and will progressively get better at casting spells and gain more Arts and Elements. In due time they will fully master a specific type of magic, and summon elemental spirits.

This is the spell list as it is now:

Screenshot 2016-04-17 at 17.40.45

Stars and question marks are safely ignored (they are notes for me). Some of those gaps might be filled, and things rejigged, but that’s the gist of it.

You will find a resemblance to Ars Magica by Tweed and Rein-Hagen. The resemblance is indeed there, but.

First, I love Ars Magica. Gangs & Bullshit owe a lot to it. Also Chthonic Codex. But Magia Nova is a different beast. Merely identifying spell groups with 2 words (or two runes, which is exactly the same) is the extent of the copying. They picked Latin, I picked oldy Italian.

I could have picked English. I didn’t for two reasons: the first is that picking premodern Italian makes it peculiar even for Italians, the second is that it’s better to have domain-specific terms for game elements. If your GM says you’re stunned by someone’s display of wealth, they probably do not mean that your character can only move slowly this round. They just used a turn of phrase which happens to use a word that means something different from a metagame perspective: you’re outside of the game and you use words to describe it that do not mean the same to people in the game. For game terms choose words you would otherwise not use to avoid confusion (no, not the spell).

Second: this whole thing started though with a different approach: create a taxonomy, and see how to allocate existing D&D spells to its subdivisions in an interesting way, rather than coming up with a system and creating new spells fitting in it (which is I guess how the Ars Magica spellbook was developed).

There will be a new, alternate Magic User, the spellcasting rules, the spells sorted by level (with some new spells), a handful of new monsters and, possibly, a few magic items. I have no idea when this will be ready, but given most of the spells come straight from the book it won’t take long.

[resources] Oh god, it’s full of spells!

A while ago someone on G+ asked for some alternative spellbooks, as in “I need a bunch of new spells”.

Thing is, I love spell and the arcane in RPGs, and I bought a bunch of related books. I even wrote and published a few.

So, here’s the list, in no specific order:

  1. The Great Net Spellbook – the first “noncanon” supplement we brought into our game. Things went wild. It impressed my teenager self to no end. A bunch are boring, a number are utterly overpowered, all are somehow wonky and quirky and a labour of love.
  2. The Pangean List of Spells – a tagged list of rewritten spells, great interface, a bunch are new.
  3. Kellri’s Spell Reference – As far as I know, all spells from that famous advanced fantasy game.
  4. Arcane Abecedary – I can’t describe this with less than 7 words:”wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus”
  5. Weird Thaumaturgy – Someone on g+ made a public thread asking for non-canonical, non-boring spells. I put together the document with some rough cut and paste but I did not finish it because reasons.
  6. Theorems & Thaumaturgy – a boat of spells, classes, items… PWYW
  7. Space Age Sorcery – the tin says, the book does
  8. The Basic Illusionist – Fancy a few illusion spells? what about about 8-score? 159 illusion spells and paraphernalia.

More will come to mind. Suggest some in the comments.

Soon from Lost Pages: Wonder & Wickedness


Wonder and Wickedness is Brendan’s Sorcery supplement. It contains:

  • a new magic system with level-less magic and rules to adapt it to your favourite fantasy RPG
  • support for magic duels! like in fiction!
  • seven magic disciplines and a whole lot of new spells
  • scores of catastrophes, for when spellcasting goes horribly wrong
  • fifty magic items
  • and some fine art by Russ Nicholson

I’m going through the last part of the layout. Available in before the end of the year, print version in January. More news soon.

Need for Speech: words have power, Hodor, OG and a new word/rune-based magic system

I started watching Game of Thrones recently, and Hodor got me thinking about magic. In some oblique ways.

RPGs are mostly a discussion. Speech and writing, in their tabletop and PBM incarnations, are almost inherent to the form. This happens because there are not enough physical game tokens to allow expression of all the subtleties of what happens in the game world. For a NON RPG, like the DND 3E miniatures game, the need for speech is absent: it’s possible to move tokens and roll dice and point at tokens, and that’s enough to resolve the game.

Note that this has nothing to do with system completeness: it’s possible to have an incomplete system needing arbitration, where the referee resolves combats by moving, changing, adding and subtracting “bits” from the table, not a word spoken.

Speech at this level is about the world. Players make statements about the world and roll dice, which are about the world. The referee adjudicates and reports the results. So, we are playing, and this is the nature of the game: making statements about the world.

There is another level of need for speech, which is the speech that happens in game: characters talk to each other. The player of Hodor has problems with that. I played a speech-impaired character once and it was funny and challenging (the system was Fate though, which was the only negative note, because all players and the GM did a brilliant job).

At any rate, Hodor can’t speak. Hodor can act though. Which would be incredibly interesting if Hodor was in a game of Diplomacy.

Hodor is a bit extreme though. Let’s talk about Robin Law’s OG.


OG is a gem. In OG you character knows how to use 3-8 words. You can unleash the very full panoplia of your extensive vocabulary when interacting with the Referee, but with other players? Stick to your own 3-8 words! If you know only “small”, “stick” and “you” you can’t say many things that do not insult virility. And that’s kind of cool because it’s a game made fun by its special player interaction.

It would be interesting if RPG magic was the same. Incidentally the first fantasy novel I read was A Wizard of Earthsea by U.K. le Guin, which has a system that is basically UG-Magic-University. You learn words for things, so that you can command them. And humans get baptized, so if you don’t know their real secret name you have to use their “common name”, which is what they use in daily life, or just use “dude”.

So, if you want a flexible rulelight magic system, one that is a bit crazy but completely not playtested, enjoy this one:

You MU begins the game knowing INT/3 names for generic things and 1 mana. When a new level is gained,  one new name is learnt and 1 mana per level is gained. You might want to use a foreign language (French? Italian? Lithuanian? Japanese? Kurdish? Finnish? Tsolyáni?) for the special names to stop your character from using them in play. They become game tokens, so you to avoid messups you want to be specific when referring to them. Or you can trace runes mid-air or pronounce the rune names. Whatever. Words have power.

To cast a spell, tell to the Referee ALL the words you are using this round. For example for Fireball would maybe be “big powerful fire blast there”, while Create Fire would be “fire”. Then, using the 5MORE system or rolling under INT or under CHA or trying to SAVE, roll once for every word you pronounce in the round. Consider every word as a different TASK for 5MORE EXPERT purposes.

You need to succeed at every word check to cast the spell. If you fail a roll, spend 1 mana to convert it to a success. If you elect not to spend the mana, all the words you are speaking in the same round get messed up and are all counted as failures. So yes you can take time casting a spell.

When you are done with words, something happens. The Referee will let you know what happens depending on the words that failed. As a yardstick, consider that a comparable D&D spell should have (2 x level) – 1 words. The referee and players are encouraged to write down combination of words of power, and the referee is encouraged to have the same combination of words have the same effect every time. Players should record combination and effects only if their characters have writing implements.

Now, this seems eminently more powerful than D&D. Surely it’s more flexible, and if you’re lucky it gives you infinite free spells at level 1.




There are two consequences for failures.

The first one is that the caster gets burnt.

  • For each word failed, the caster can’t use that word for 1d6 turns.
  • For each three words failed, the caster takes 1d6 damage OR the caster can spend one mana OR the caster can get stunned. The caster can choose which as they know how to fend off magic power. Stun duration is 1d6 rounds if chosen once, 1d6 turns if chosen twice, 1d6 hours if chosen 3 times, then days, weeks, months, seasons.
  • For each six words failed, something awful happens. Maybe the caster gets whisked away by a gate for a while, or they develop a horrible mutation. I’ll let your Referee adjudicate.

So if a caster fails seven words, they can’t use any of them for 1d6 turns, takes three times a mixture of 1d6 damage or 1 mana damage or stunned for 1d6 rounds/turns/hours, and something horrible happens.

Plus, there is the second consequence. Magic happens regardless. Referee, consider that magic has a personality. And that words have personalities. And that some words don’t like being used close to each other. Let them play. You might even have the words make reaction rolls against each other and the MU to determine if the play nice. Mispronounced words will most probably misbehave at some level, and the caster might even pronounce other words instead of the failed one.

Note that if a spell targets someone, using a generic name (like “human”) grants an additional save, while using the Secret Name forces the victim to reroll 1 succeeded save.

You can learn new words from other people

Note that you can totally use this system as rune magic too.

Casters in “Wizards” – the game about the movie

Part of the “Casters In” Series (previously Empire of the Petal throne, Quest of the Ancients, DSA).

Spellcasting in wizards uses two scores: spirit (some kind of magic energy) and Magic (which is a willpower-based skill).

Wizards is the game about the movie with the same name. It has some interesting mechanics. And Nazis. It feels positively Carcosan.

sorry, no source :(

sorry, no source😦

At any rate: players are supposed to make their own spells, and there are a handful in the book.

To cast the spell the magic user must roll under magic with a d20 and:

  • if the result is under the difference between magic and the spell difficulty, the caster loses spirit equal to the die roll.
  • if the result is above that, but under magic, the caster loses spirit equal to the spell cost.
  • if the result is above that but under double the magic skill, the spell fails and the caster spends 1 spirit point.
  • if above twice the magic skill, the caster loses spirit equal to the cost of the spell.
  • on a critical failure, there’s an optional fumble. No table, but “fumbled fireball leads to pants on fire” is the example in the book. Which is appropriate and awesome.

It’s also possible to practice and get more experience in a given spell at a cost of a fifth of raising the magic skill.

Casting spell on other people requires, in addition, a contest of Spirit: the same roll for the magic check is used for the caster, and is compared to the amount of spirit the caster had before casting the spell, while the target rolls 1d20 against their spirit. Spirit is fully regained in 30 hours, but sleeping counts as double time, so 18 hours of wake and 6 hours of sleep are enough.

As additional weird thing, it’s possible to try an Evocation just pumping magic: a spirit roll is made, and if successful the caster spends spirit points equal to the d20 and SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS. If the caster fails, they spend points equal to the failure margin and SOMETHING AWFUL HAPPENS.

Why I like Wizards’s magic:

  • if you’re good at a spell, you can cast it cheap
  • mana points used as both “raw power” and “energy left”. The more you cast the least effective your spells become.
  • that whole Evocation “just dump mana” mechanic is simple yet amazing.