In most fantasy games, magic is embraced as a useful tool, the use of which any character might aspire to, with many respected practitioners and often centres of learning where budding magic-users may study. It's not quite like that in Conan's world. Magic is scary, often evil, and many of those who wield it are power-hungry villains using their power to further their own selfish if not wicked ends. For most, magic is a black art to be feared and avoided.
This book, however, provides you with an enhanced set of rules to enable magic to feature large within your game. You may wish to increase the threat posed by wicked wizards, or perhaps one or more player-characters wish to learn dark secrets against the advice of everyone who knows them, and probably even their mothers.
Part of the introduction is 'written' by an academic from Miskatonic University in the 1930s, reporting on his study of the legendary tome, the Book of Skelos. Then the nine chapters that make up the work are described. These include the history of sorcery, a collection of magic artefacts, and an array of 'horrors' that will leave you quaking in your boots if not scared clean out of them. If that's not enough, there's also a section on Kingdoms of Dream and Nightmare: spirit and dream realms that the brave may visit... if they dare.
For those characters who wish to study sorcerers - or maybe become one themselves - there is a chapter on Sorcerers in the Mortal Kingdoms, covering the different types of magic that have arisen and where, as well as another chapter about Sorcerers and their Followers. This explains how sorcerers form cabals and societies, gather followers, and - inevitably - plot and scheme against one another. Aspiring sorcerers will find Chapter 6: Advanced Rules for Sorcery of use. It contains new origins, archetypes and backgrounds, and delves further into how sorcery is done, along with new forms like necromancy, astrology, mummery, and herbalism.
There is also a chapter on running sorcery campaigns. Sorcerers are about as hard to herd as cats, so this section contains ideas and advice about guiding them, and of course the forces and goals that may be applied. Finally, there's an extremely detailed sorcerer character - Serafus of Numidia - which can be used by the GM or indeed a player. He's quite young as sorcerers go, but from a wealthy family and eager to search out knowledge wherever it may be. Perhaps he'll hire the party to find an item or volume for him, or even come along for the adventure. As a player-character, maybe he has decided that the best way to discover further knowledge is to become an adventurer himself.
Even if sorcery takes a background role in your game, or is practised only by a few antagonists, this is an excellent work to bring sorcery to vivid life on your tabletop. Once you have a major villain who practises the dark arts, or a player who wants their character to venture into these dangerous waters, it really comes into its own.
Return to The Book of Skelos page.
Reviewed: 15 June 2018