Saturday, October 9, 2010

Old School Resources: Dragon Tree Spell Book

Dave Hargrave wasn't the only one publishing gonzo, D&D-esque gaming materials in the late 70's and early 80's. In addition to the Arduin materials, Ben and Mary Ezzell of Dragon Tree Press were (and still are) publishing materials for their own fantasy setting, dubbed Delos (any similarity to the Greek island of Delos, and the Delian League is purely coincidental).

In addition to The Delian Book Of The Dead (which I previously reviewed), Dragon Tree Press published The Dragon Tree Spell Book ("the Spell Book"), which is a compendium of magic spells compatible with Dungeons and Dragons. First published in 1981, The Spell Book is 135 pages, contains 224 unique spells, and can still be purchased from Dragon Tree Press, for $12.

Some of the more interesting spells within The Spell Book include:
  • "Weed-killer", this spell withers weeds -- handy for clearing out an overgrown area;

  • "Andrea's Rambling Clew" -- the material component is a ball of yarn, which unrolls as it provides a trail towards your intended destination;

  • "Gordian Knot" -- a spell for ensuring theives cannot untie a knot to raid your backpack or sack;

  • "Snap, Crackle, Pop" -- a spell which creates tiny globules across a flat surface, which make loud popping sounds if walked upon;

  • "Foghorn" -- allows a player to amplify her voice, so she can address large crowds;

  • "Percival's Phosphorescence" -- enchanted items collect sunlight, and can thus be used as no-fire torches underground; and

  • "Brother Bertram's Body Bag" -- a corpse placed within the body bag will cease to decay, useful when you want to resurrect someone but it will be several days before you can do so.

There are some interesting and useful spells in The Spell Book. But the real value to be derived from The Spell Book is within the first 27 pages.

Those first 27 pages provide a summary of Newton's Principia Arcana, an ancient tome that reveals the four types of magical mana, from which are derived five magic systems. The derived magic systems are:

  • Memorization System -- similar to the Vancian system of spell-casting employed in Dungeons and Dragons;

  • Local Mana System -- similar to the system used in D&D's Dark Sun setting, or Niven's "The Magic Goes Away", there is a certain amount of magic power within a given area, and spell-casters who use up the magic power in that area, must then move to another area in order to continue casting;

  • Personal Mana System -- each spell caster has a certain amount of magical mana within himself, and can cast any spell until his personal mana is exhausted. Then he must eat and rest for a certain amount of time to restore his personal mana;

  • Percentage and Fumble System -- magical essense is abundant, but hard to control. Spell casters can cast spells, but there is always a chance that a spell will backfire or result in some catastrophe; and

  • Impromptu Magic System -- spell casters can make up any spell, but their chances are dependent on certain laws of spell casting. Those laws are identified in the Impromptu Magic System, and adherance to those laws affects the chance of spell success. This system is similar to DeCamp and Pratt's magic system, as described in The Compleat Enchanter.


JDJarvis said...

Got this book sitting six feet from my computer right now, under a stack of arduin grimoires.

The variant spell systems are certainly a good read and were an eye opener to me on how to stretch the magic system, for a campaign back in the 80's, still good today really.

Bluebear Jeff said...

I also have this book downstairs (as well as all of the original Arduin books and dungeons, of course) . . . and the original little D&D books and supplements.

I just came across your blog today and am enjoying it.

A slightly belated Canadian Thanksgiving back at you (I'm on Vancouver Island in BC) . . . and I just finished a "yuck sandwich".

And, you ask, "just what is a 'yuck sandwich'?"

Gravy on one slice of bread, cranberry sauce on the other; dressing on the gravy side, turkey on the cranberry side. Fold together and you've got a "yuck sandwich" . . . which despite the name is quite tasty.

-- Jeff

Aaron E. Steele said...

I eat those all the time. We usually have turkey buns a couple of hours after thanksgiving dinner, complete with gravy, cranberries, turkey and stuffing. Don't forget the dill pickle.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Jeff, which one of your blogs should I be following? Bluvardy? Emperor v Elctor?

Bluebear Jeff said...

I'm the owner of "Emperor vs Elector" group blog (80-some members), but it is for 18th century Imagi-Nations.

My main blog is "Saxe-Bearstein", but it is primarily geared toward historical gaming (as are most of my blogs).

Bluvardy is my RPG blog . . . but it is mostly about my system and I haven't actually been running any games lately.

So, you get to choose depending upon your interests.

-- Jeff