Working as art director on the Deep Magic project is a blast! In particular, working with cover artist Marcel Mercado was a creative delight, and I am THRILLED with what he came up with.
Initially, my direction to Marcel for the cover basically focused on Midgard magic (blood magic, rune magic, shadow magic, and geomancy). I also stressed that I wanted a bright, colorful cover image that is lively, dynamic, and full of action. I noted that a cool-looking menhir (standing stone) with runes carved was an important part of the image. Ley lines were another element we needed, which I suggested might be represented as glowing lines on the ground, radiating out from the base of the menhir. Of course, being a book all about magic, we needed a spellcaster, so I asked for a wizard of some sort (one of the Midgard iconics would be a nice touch), casting a spell, with lots of fiery, glowing magical runes in the air around him.
I was blown away by the rough we received (seen above).
All four had a nice sense of action and movement, and they really captured the feel we were going for.
I like rough #1 best of all, in particular the menhir and the ley lines, although I liked aspects of the other three as well. So I worked with Marcel to incorporate the best parts of all four roughs into a single, awesome cover image. You can see where we are with that in the second image sneak peek I’m posting here.
After I had the final, high resolution image in hand, I worked on the actual cover.
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For me, magic was all about the handwaving.
Unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of time as the DM. Plenty of stories involved an evil priest or foul wizard, or even the clever ogre mage preparing some terrible ritual spell which would unleash a demon or open a portal into the outer planes. My villains were never big on sustainable dark empires, what can I say?
I tinkered with spellpoints, gobbled up articles in Dragon magazine on magical colleges or spell design. But nothing talked about those classic scenes my players (fortunately) never got tired of foiling—the enigmatic, big ceremonial magic with the potential for horrible consequences if the heroes interrupted the casting. For me, though, the frustrating part remained the fact that, while I had mechanics for the efficacy of polearms against chainmail versus leather armor versus plate mail, I was left to my own devices about what magic could do.
Things simply worked the way they did because villains needed to do what villains do, and adventurers needed to stop them. That’s the plan—the way of the story. We drew the Great and Powerful Curtain across the details, because, well, weren’t the characters going to succeed? And heck, if they didn’t, then they’d face the demon along with the other baddies. Why did the diabolist need those villagers? Why did the ritual need to be here, in the caldera? We may have written reasons, but they were based on whims, more ornamental than anything.
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Today has been one of those dream days. The moment before go-time is always a little anxious. I hit the button on the project at 6:30 a.m. and said, “I sure hope everyone loves spellbooks as much as I do.”
An hour later, the doubts were gone. Your support for the Deep Magic Kickstarter has been incredible! I kept thinking, “Well, wow, that sure was an awesome start. I’m sure it’ll taper off here so I can go eat lunch” (or whatever). I’d come back and be BLOWN AWAY at the progress. Fully funded in six hours! First two stretch goals in the next 6 hours! I don’t even….
And now the Paizo blog has chimed in with some comments on Deep Magic as well! That’s just an amazing capper to a day I thought could not get any better. I don’t know what made this Kickstarter stand out to the Paizo crew, but it means a lot to me to know that they are encouraging third-party publishers to bring their A-game, and that they are fans of good work, no matter who publishes it.
Thank you all. I’m thrilled that the core book is happening, and we’re adding goodies at a great clip. This project has more amazing tricks still to summon, conjure, and enchant. A few are very shiny indeed.
Please keep spreading the word about Deep Magic. I will do my damnedest to keep making this project bigger and better.
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In 1884, Edwin Abbott wrote a novella called Flatland, and a hundred years later, I read it with delight. The novella’s characters are squares and triangles, sliding around a two-dimensional world called Flatland. The Flatlanders have no concept of “up” or “down,” and the existence of a third-dimension is left to philosophers and clerics. That is, until one day when a sphere pulls a square out of Flatland and into Spaceland. From his new vantage point “above” Flatland, the square sees not just the skin of his Flatlander friends as before, but inside them as well. He can reach down and touch someone’s heart. He can pull someone into Spaceland, flip him over, and place him back down as his own mirror image. He can peer inside locked chests inside closed rooms and pilfer what he likes. He can teleport by moving into Spaceland at one point and out of Spaceland at another. In short, he can perform what Flatlanders would call “magic.”
As a long-time D&D player, I realized that incorporating this kind of “magic” into the game promised fantastic opportunities for players and GMs alike. Just as Spaceland granted the square “powers” beyond the comprehension of the Flatlanders, a new school of Dimensional Magic could empower a caster to skewer an enemy’s heart from afar and view the world as only the gods can. Ignorant PCs would seem like helpless Flatlanders against a villain with such novel powers. That is, until they learn the magic too.
And now they can.
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Today the Deep Magic Kickstarter launches. It’s pretty much my dream project for RPG crunch, which is to say: it’s all about the fire spells, baby!
I’ve always loved wizards and clerics, and nothing makes me happier than fireballs coming online, that flame strike spell hitting, or (if I’m feeling especially sneaky) casting the fire shield one round before the orcish hordes overrun the front line. Yes, I’m a pyromaniac when I play a wizard. (There’s a little of that in the project video.) But I swear, hardly any structures burned down mysteriously in my youthful stomping grounds.
But this isn’t all about making things burst into flame. The Deep Magic project collects literally hundreds of spells. It offers variant magic systems. It updates familiar material, gathers new spells from a list of RPG designers you won’t believe, and it does it all at a very reasonable price. There are a lot of Kickstarters out there, but this one is already largely written and edited, and the result is a great big monster TOME of SPELLS. If that doesn’t get your heart beating faster, you clearly play fighters.
At the very least, check out the Deep Magic project page and watch me play with fire in the video. This project is going to burn it up! (In a safe, 20-ft. radius sort of way.)
Wolfgang Baur is a noted game designer and the publisher here at Kobold Press. We swear he’s even more of a pyro at the gaming table than he lets on here. Ask him about kerosene that one time in Call of Cthulhu. Or the sea of fire spell he proposed for dragon magic. You know, that spell’s probably in the book.
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