Archive for Magic

GURPS Wizard 1: Making your magic scary

Posted in GURPS with tags , , on August 3, 2011 by boccobsblog

GURPS, or the Generic Universal Roleplaying System, is a dizzyingly complex RPG that I’ve been playing for about a decade. I would never recommend this system for a group that struggles with munchkins (it’s easier to break than a Mexican ipod), but for veteran roleplayers looking for a little more freedom than feats and prestige classes allow, GURPS is a godsend.

What I find most impressive about GURPS is the innovation of its character creation system, which includes limitations and enhancements, or modifiers on existing abilities. This makes a flexible system even more so, and allows the group to game in nearly any setting or genre they can cook up.

Although Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy roleplaying game, few fantasy series “feel” like DnD. Gandalf’s magic was not neatly categorized into schools and levels, and Conan the Cimmerian would slap anyone who would suggest that he can only call upon his fury a certain number of times per day. With GURPS, your group can shape their characters to the specific flavors of your favorite fantasy worlds.  Let’s take a look at one now, shall we?

Elric of Melnibone

Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories are grim, fatalistic, and cynical. Elric, the last of the sorcerer emperors of Melnibone, is a man whose extraordinary abilities are eclipsed by physical deficiency and a terrible dependence on Stormbringer, his evil soul-drinking runesword. To reflect the flawed nature of heroes in Moorcock’s fiction, we required our players to take on additional mental and physical disadvantages, a particularly fun part of GURPS character creation. This insured that our group, while powerful, was carrying a lot of baggage.

Magic in Elric is dangerous and unpleasant. Elric himself practices “nigromancy” which involves demonic supplication and scaring the bejeezus out of anyone who happens to witness his rituals. Magic is also difficult, and the cost of botching a ritual is catastrophic. Players who wish to purchase supernatural abilities in the game would have to add heavy limitations, among them “Hideous” (-4 reaction penalty to those who witness the power), and an extreme form of “Nuisance Effect”, which required the players to automatically roll on the Fright Check (in the basic set) and Black Magic Failure (in GURPS: Magic ) tables. When failing meant that a character may have ended up permanently insane or dinner for demons, the abilities took on a gravity and mystique that made for great tension every time they saw use.

Cosmic entities abound in the series, and are as capricious as they are bizarre. With canon gods like Pyaray, the Tentacled Whisperer of Impossible Secrets, and Roofdrak, Lord of Dogs, we felt perfectly fine letting our players cut loose when it came to creating their own patron deities. Some went so far as to take Patron as an advantage, usually modified with Special Powers and Minimal Intervention. Others modified their existing abilities with Spiritual, which required them to make a reaction roll to their deities before invoking any of their abilities.

By Dave R.

(A big thank you to Dave R. for the article!)

Duels of the Planeswalker Expansion 3

Posted in Gaming News, Magic the Gathering with tags , , on June 13, 2011 by boccobsblog

This summer Wizards of the Coast will release their third expansion to the popular Duels of the Planeswalkers online game to coinside with the release of Magic 2012, the latest core set.

Here’s what Wizards had to say on the issue:

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is part of the Magic: The Gathering 2012 product line, which also includes the Magic: The Gathering 2012 core set. It will be released on Xbox LIVE© Arcade, PC/Steam and PlayStation® Network in summer of 2011.

Building on the success of the original Duels of the Planeswalkers, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 will introduce all new game modes, Planeswalker opponents, decks, puzzle challenges and other exciting new features including a new-to-digital multiplayer game mode called Archenemy where players gather up to two allies and team up against the AI.

New Phyrexia Prerelease Tournament

Posted in Gaming News, Magic the Gathering with tags , , on May 4, 2011 by boccobsblog

image via

The third set in the Scars of Mirrodin block, New Phyrexia is set to pre-release this weekend. Find a participating game store and get your cards a week before everyone else by playing in the tournament.


Set Name New Phyrexia
Block Set 3 of 3 in the Scars of Mirrodin block
Three-Letter Abbreviation NPH
Number of Cards 175
Release Date May 13, 2011
Prerelease Events May 7-8, 2011
Launch Parties May 13-16, 2011
Magic Online Release Date May 30, 2011
Game Day June 11-12, 2011
Design Team Ken Nagle (lead)
Dave Guskin
Joe Huber
Matt Place
Mark Rosewater
Development Team Aaron Forsythe (lead)
Dave Guskin
Zac Hill
Tom LaPille
Erik Lauer

Magic the Gathering: Deck Building Guide

Posted in Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by boccobsblog

Updated on 4/7/2020 (Thanks Dave R.!)

Recently I have been playing a lot of Magic. While the last few sets have been pretty uninspiring, I’ve been playing with students at the college where I teach and their enthusiasm rekindled my passion for the game. Today I gave a presentation on basic deck building to the students in the game club and I thought I would post my notes for anyone interested in improving their magic game.

Choose a theme. [optional] (Examples: Merfolk, Knights, Goblins, Clerics, Fairies, etc.)

Rationale: A theme helps solidify a deck’s concept. Also, many themes share spells and artifacts that make strategy and card choice easier.

1.)   Choose a deck concept.

While this may sound like choosing a theme, it is much different. While a theme might be knights, or giants, a concept is how your deck will function mechanically. Do you want a lot of fast creatures (aggro)? Do you want to run the table and affect your enemies with powerful spells (control)? Do you want a mixture of the two (aggro-control)? Do you have a trick in mind or one you found on the net (combo)? Common deck concepts are weenie (a swarm of low casting cost creatures), burn (lots of spell damage), discard, and stomp (big creatures).

2.)   Decide on a win condition. How do you intend to win the game? Do you want to do creature damage, spell damage; do you intend to ‘deck’ your opponents by milling them?

3.)   Choose cards that support your chosen win condition. For example: If you intend to do fast creature damage, choose spells that will remove roadblocks on your path to victory. Make your creatures unblockable, give  them flying, remove blockers, etc.

4.)   Plan for everything. Ok, not possible, but did you cover the most common threats? Do you have a way to deal with: flying, enchants, artifacts, burn, creature damage? Keep your decks interactive and responsive.

5.)   Never, ever, ever, go over 60 cards ( or 40 in a tournament) in your deck.

Rationale: This one is simple statistics: each card you add to your deck over 60 makes it that much more unlikely that you’ll pull the card you need. Wouldn’t you rather have a 1 in 60 chance of pulling your needed card than a 1 in 70?

6.)   Understand the statistics in the game and make them work for you. If you need a certain card to make your combo work, place four in your deck. This takes you from a 1 in 60 chance of pulling that card to a 1 in 15. Simple enough. Put cards in your deck that will affect the chances of pulling your needed cards. Cards that allow you to search for a certain card, spells that allow you to draw more cards, cards with the cycle ability; all of these tactics will greatly improve your odds of pulling the cards you need. Don’t leave it to chance, take control.

7.)   Learn the ‘rule of nine’. You truly only need nine cards to create a magic deck.

Rationale: By only using 24 lands and nine playsets (four copies of a card) your deck will be focused and honed. By choosing only nine cards that support your win condition your deck will be a dangerous weapon whose strategy comes together quickly, rather than a random collection of 60+ cards with ‘neat effects’, or ‘cool art’. Many players find this approach too restrictive, but if you need evidence of its effectiveness, google any number of pro decks and you’ll see the RoN at work. And remember, use the RoN as a starting point, but don’t be a slave to it.

8.)   Learn the mana curve. You want the casting costs of your deck to form a bell curve. Create your deck in such a way that you are using all your mana each round and playing spells each turn. Be sure and put several (about 1/3 of your deck) 1 and 2 casting cost cards in your deck so that statistically you will be sure to draw a ‘one drop’ spell on your first turn. Sure, that 8-casting-cost creature is awesome, but while you wait 10 – 12 turns to cast him, your opponent has already wiped the floor with your corpse by dropping lower cost creatures every turn and needled you to death. examples of mana curve

9.)   Learn how much mana your deck needs. In multi-color decks, you will need to add the mana symbols up and place them in a ratio, simplify the ratio, and that will tell you how much mana you need. Until you’re comfortable doing it yourself, there are websites that can help you compute how much mana your deck needs. (note: the average 60-card deck needs about 24 mana)

Printable handout of the article: MtG_Deck_Building_Tips

Good luck!

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