Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pact Magic (and Roommates)

So this past weekend I travelled up island to meet up with two of my best buds and old roommates. And just like old times we decided to bust out some 3.5E D&D. It had been quite a while since I last rolled up a character on this incarnation of the d20 system, which used to be our bread and butter when we were living together almost 5 years ago. It felt nostalgic, like slipping into a pair of old, comfortable shoes. Although these shoes are comfy, having played many other systems since last, I wouldn't want to wear them for a long trip if you get the idea. They'd chafe after a rigorous hike. But there's nothing better to wear when taking it easy and catching up on old times with good friends.

For anyone's interest, I decided to keep my character "relatively" simple as far as the VAST options that the 3.5 library offers, by playing a 15th level Binder named Ragnar Lokison (I've been reading about Norse Mythology again.). For those uninitiated, a Binder is a base class introduced in Tome of Magic. (That's the 3.5E book, not the 2E book. ;-] ) Binders make pacts with entities that shouldn't be from a place outside existence called Vestiges, who in exchange for being briefly bound to one's soul and experiencing what it feels to exist again, they grant the Binder various supernatural abilities and powers. Binders fit an interesting party role, being they have the potential to fill any role required by selecting certain Vestiges that grant associated abilities and powers. I believe this makes them I highly versatile class, though like a Bard, they wouldn't fill a role as well as one particularly suited to it.

Binders and pact magic really clicked with me when I first got Tome of Magic. The other two magic systems; Shadow and Truename, are interesting too, but I really dig all the different concepts in Pact magic: The idea that entities exist outside the multiverse and beyond the various deities; through simple yet forbidden rituals one can contact these entities and make pacts with them, and possibly have your actions guided or influenced by them from making a "poor" pact; and physically manifesting a sign when your harbour a vestige. (like growing a extra digit on each hand, your body taking on the appearance of cracked stone, or teeth growing out of your skull.)

It all kinda smacks both Lovecraftian and Faustian, without being a blatant take on the Mythos, or a contrived 'deal with the devil'. Nor does it really disrupt established D&D cosmology much. (If you're looking for Lovecraftian-esque D&D monstrosities, check out Lords of Madness, another one of my favourite splat books.)

All of this is ripe with great roleplaying potential for both players and GMs that I haven't seen in many other classes. But, because it can rely so heavily on roleplay to really bring out the class, one would need a GM or players with shared interest in Pact magic to play the part. Otherwise all the fluff would just get waved aside like any other magic system. Unfortunately this kinda happened to me, as I only had a brief chance to play a Binder many years ago, certainly not long enough to get deep into the role. So, I took this opportunity to try giving it another shot, even if only for a short time. Needless to say it was wicked awesome. :)

Now that I've home-brewed stuff for a number of different systems, I'd like to take a shot a creating my own Vestige. This can be tricky, as you need to balance the number of abilities/power granted by the Vestige without making it too over or underpowered for its level. As of this post, WotC still has a couple articles up on designing Vestiges I'll have to read up on later.

Whilst in town, I swung by a local used bookstore I used to visit while living there and picked up a copy of the Spawn of Azathoth campaign for CoC, and all three books of The Lando Calrissian Adventures trilogy.

We also got a chance to play Umläut; which was loads of fun. I played an over-the-top blackened death metal band called Morbid Prophecy, my buddy Mike played a Celtic folk metal band called Bleeding Haggis, and Josh was Thunder Crotch, a glam/power metal group. Much metal mayhem ensued.

All in all it was an awesome nostalgic sabbatical with old friends.