On the Shelf Review – Rough Magicks

Thanks to Simon Rogers for sending me the latest addition to the Trail of Cthulhu line, Rough Magicks by Kenneth Hite.  This slim book provides new spells and options for Keepers of Trail games, from which they can choose based on their preference and play style.

Hite starts off the book with a selection of explanations for magic for Keepers to consider for their games.  Next, he describes the new Magic ability, which can substitute for Stability losses when casting spells.  Of course, this is likely more useful from the Keeper’s end or during pulp style games, but a number of different possible customizations are proposed, often derived from hints in Lovecraft’s own fiction.  The chapter rounds out with a discussion of monster with Mythos magic, including spells that typical beasties should know (Call of Cthulhu should have had this twenty years ago).

The chapter “Cast a Deadly Spell” contains a number of new spells for Trail.  I was less enthused about these, as the setup for most comes directly out of Call of Cthulhu, though perhaps Trail Keepers will find them more useful.  Nonetheless, the chapter also features a list of changes that can be institituted to previously-known spells, plus a list of prominent sorcerers in Mythos fiction and a page on the various editions of the Elder Sign (including those of Lovecraft, Derleth, Long, and Simon).  “The Spoor of Magic” provides examples of various clues that might reveal that a spell has been cast.  Hite rounds out the chapter with a section on “What Full-Blown Magi Can Do” – which, sadly, seems rushed and incomplete.

The final two sections cover idiosyncratic magic (spells closer to real-life models that are invented by players on the spot) and magic in Lovecraft’s setting.  Both are excellent articles, with much food for thought.  I do disagree with his assertion that you could start a good fight between anthropologists, historians, and occultists by asking them what magick is – at least the first two would be sensible enough to remember pressing appointments elsewhere if asked.

Overall, this should be a good book for Trail Keepers who are looking for more magic in their games, with less of worth for any CoC players looking for ideas to steal.   I’m coming to believe that Trail is really best when it draws upon Lovecraft and other writers for its material, and at its lowest when it tries to use Call of Cthulhu as a model.  Despite my misgivings, Rough Magicks is another example of the innovation and excellence that has characterized the Trail line so far.

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Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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