Monthly Archives: November 2012

Theorems & Thaumaturgy

Theorems & Thaumaturgy necromancer illustration

This Labyrinth Lord supplement bills itself as Advanced Arcana for the Discerning Magic-User. Theorems & Thaumaturgy is available as a free PDF, but there are several Lulu print on demand options as well, for those that like physical books.

It contains three new specialist magic-user classes, the elementalist, necromancer, and vivimancer. There is also a fey elf class, which is presented in both “basic” race-as-class and “advanced” race with class format. In some ways, it feels sort of like an OSR equivalent to the old TSR Tome of Magic, though with fewer system-level changes.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy has what I would consider close to professional grade layout, and excellent, distinctive artwork that fits nicely with the Labyrinth Lord aesthetic without being exactly the same.

In addition to the new classes (which all contain full, custom spell lists), there are also new magic items, new monsters, and a collection themed books of magic. Some of these new spells are very creative, allowing things like detecting which spells another magic-user has prepared (spell reading), and manipulating those spells (for example, there is a charm spell spell). The fey elf presented is distinctive and much more thematic than the standard LL fighter/mage elf.

Gavin also did some great, practical work (like sets of prepared spells for magic-users of any level and an index of all the LL spells). This is the kind of effort that people rarely put into free resources, because despite being very useful it is often not as fun to put together as the parts where you make new stuff up.

There is a chapter on optional magic rules, including an awesome variation on at-will detect magic that functions like the search action (2 in 6 chance, takes one turn). I would be very tempted to use something like that (perhaps X in 6 chance, where is the the highest level spell that a magic-user was able to prepare). The d30 table of magic affinities looks good too. It offers a minor quirk/power for every magic-user, but the random determination makes it much more interesting than all magic-users expecting to be able to use mage hand or whatever.

Silvered weapons

Image from Wikipedia

Some foes, such as lycanthropes and wights, are immune to standard weapons but vulnerable to silver, and most or all versions of D&D include silver versions of various items in the equipment list. OD&D prices silver arrows at 5 GP per arrow (compared to a quiver of 20 arrows for 10 GP), and Moldvay prices silver daggers at 30 GP (ten times as much as the standard dagger). Silver crosses are also available for 25 GP (the simple wooden variety is only 2 GP).

However, treasure hunting adventurers are not very price sensitive regarding mundane equipment, so increased cost does not have much effect other than during initial equipment buying. Thus, there should be some trade-off to using a silvered weapon other than just costing more initially. Otherwise, players will just outfit everyone with silver versions of everything, and then combattants will be assumed to always use silvered weapons, just in case. Most things that are unproblematically better are boring. So there should be some reason to not use silver weapons all the time.

A silvered weapon is not actually made of solid silver. Rather, it is an iron or steel implement that has silver bound to the blade in a process similar to gilding. Perhaps a ritual and some hedge magic or blessing is also required as part of the procedure. As it is used, the silver wears off. This process of wearing off is actually critical to the effective functioning of the silver weapon — you are essentially leaving traces of poison in the argyrophobic  creature.

A “silver die” (d6) should be rolled along with every damage die. On a silver die roll of 1, the silvering process has worn off, and must be re-silvered. Needing to roll an extra die also draws attention to the use of a silver weapon, making it more of an explicit choice, and less of a default. This makes silver arrows potentially more cost-effective than most silvered melee weapons (though note you can’t effectively fight with a ranged weapon if you are in melee). Also, a miss with a silvered melee weapon will not potentially degrade the weapon, but an arrow that misses may be damaged or lost. So the value comparison is not direct.

Most metal weapons can be silvered. The cost (following Moldvay) is ten times the normal weapon, and takes a skilled smith one week to complete. Given the cost of silvering, it makes sense to only use silver weapons when they are likely to make a difference. This is in effect a form of melee ammunition.

Silvered plate armor is available too, at the same cost multiple. Argyrophobic foes will generally prioritize attacking characters that are not wearing silvered armor, and will usually take a penalty when attacking combattants armored in silver (though this varies based on the specific creature). Silvered armor will also wear out in a similar manner (a silver die should be rolled per attack that is landed on the wearer).