Welcome, viewers, to the final week of Magic in Modern Month. Sorry that it got a little sidetracked last week, but I had a mixture of a bad virus, lots of distractions, and busy busyness in general. So, we’ve looked at modern magic in general, and modern magic in a specific setting. Now, we’re going to take a look at a little bit of a conundrum: a non-modern d20 Modern magic system. Specifically, we’re going to be looking at Imperial Age: Magick from Adamant Entertainment, a title about alternate magic systems and the Victorian era. While this title uses old English spellings such as armour, Defence, and magick when describing its game terms…well, I’m an American, so rather than force my writing to be different a whole review, I’ll be talking the rules over in Americanized English.
The Practice of Magic
The first chapter of this title is broken up into “Practices”, specific alternate rules systems for augmenting and altering the standard d20 Modern magic system. First of these is, shock-horror, the First Practice! While for the most part similar to standard d20 Modern magic, the First Practice replaces spells-per-day-by-advanced class with feats entitled Magic Mastery (1 through 5, obviously, as there are 5 spell levels in d20 Modern) to grant players access to spells. That’s it. It’s a simple but effective alteration in two ways. First off, it is rather familiar but adds just enough differentiation to not be meaningless, making it a good “gateway” to alternate magic systems. Second off, as feats, you have control over the prerequisites; while the title suggests some of its own, such as character level or finding specific tomes and the like, you always have the option of making your own rules.
Afterwards, the Second Practice is mostly the same as the First Practice, but adds a Magic skill with checks to learn new spells, cast spells, etc.; the Third Practice takes this even further by having skills and Magic Mastery 1 through 5 feats for each school of magic (Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation). These are both interesting options if you want skill-based magic, but I personally prefer the Second Practice over the Third. It may be just me, but I like the singular Magic skill over having one for every school of magic, and let the player take feats like Spell Focus and choose their spells to reflect what schools they focus on. In any case, they took these options a step further by turning most of the numerous metamagic feats into skill check modifiers, an idea I heartily approve of.
The Price of Magic
Chapter 2’s focus is on “Prices”,w hich are a secondary facet of the alternate magic systems that you can add to the Practices. The First Price will have those psionics fans in the audience cheering, as it focuses on a point pool as d20 psionics do. Four levels of “pool drain” are listed, from drain equal to the spell’s level to 1d6 drain for spells of any level besides 0 (which get off slightly easier at 1d3 points). This Price is very versatile, which is always a plus, and it is the most reflective of so many magic systems in video games and non-D&D tabletop RPGs. Of course, if you are one of those that likes Vancian casting or hate psionics/spell points/anything of the like, this may not be for you. The Second and Third prices have spells dealing ability damage and spell energy depending on the location the caster is in (for instance, an urban area may have little to no spell power, while sitting atop an ancient ruin would give you plenty of magic juice), respectively, and I’m not really that fond of either for every magic-user in a setting. Certain types, maybe, but not all of them…of course, again, that’s just me. If you like the sound of those two ideas, I guess you might want to look into them.
The Rest of Magic
Chapter 3 briefly goes over adding the three laws of magic to any of the three Practices listed in chapter 1, which tends to be just what is typically used for the Laws; there’s not much here to talk about, so we’ll move right along. Chapter 4 starts out with some new feats, which are a mixed bag of items. Some are based in specific Practices (such as Quick Study, which grants more immediately learned spells when you take Magic Mastery feats), generic magic feats (such as Astrology, which provides a bonus on spells used against someone whose astrological data you know), magic feats that replicate class abilities (such as Summon Familiar, which…do I even need to explain that one?), and vaguely-magic-related but not magic-exclusive feats (such as Infamy, which can either be a boon or bane on certain Charisma-based skills depending on who you are dealing with, and Gentry, which is ground in the Victorian era theme and grants you bonuses with the English nobility). None of them are really unwelcome to me, and some of them are genuinely neat, so props to the creators. Passing by a brief retread of classic skills associated with magic, there are two new pieces of equipment to end chapter 4: the arcane theodolite (a ley-line-finding gadget) and a deck of Tarot cards that provide a bonus to Divination checks.
If you were worried about any dominance of the alternate magic rules, chapter 5 may be useful for you if you’re a GM, since it focuses on Victorian-era magic campaigns. This comes in the form of several campaign suggestions, those being…
The Fair Empire: Basically, the United Kingdom plus fey. A lot of political intrigue with the Seelie and Unseelie Courts and the humans under Queen Victoria, iron-clad and iron-wielding anti-fey warriors, and lots of fairy tale-type stuff. This setting was further expanded on with an Imperial Age title of its own.
Esoteric Empires: A dark world focused on mystery and conspiracy, with numerous (and once actually real) secret societies vying for the control of powers in both the political and occult circuits. This is a pretty neat idea, and would be especially interesting if it was fused into a Shadow Stalkers-style game.
Eldritch Empires: Call of Cthulhu. …No, I don’t really have anything else to add to that, this idea is basically just Call of Cthulhu.
Finally, there are the appendices. The first has tables of the names of famous occult figures, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian deities, Goetic demons, and archangels, as well as the types of spells they are associated with. While mostly meant for the naming of spells and incantations or flavoring up verbal spell components, I can also see these lists as a hook for creating monsters and adherents/priests associated with these figures. Appendix 2 covers various esoteric societies that actually existed in the real world during the Victorian era, such as the Freemasons, Theosophists, and the Hell Fire Club, and gives some ideas on how to “fantasy-ize” them for use in a magical campaign. Finally, appendix 3 has an advanced class, a spellcaster limited to certain types of spells but capable of creating circles of power and the like. It’s a good little advanced class for more low-key spellcasters and is especially fitting for the Esoteric Empires setting idea.
If you like alternate magic rules, have an idea for a Victorian-era urban fantasy campaign, or want to emulate Call of Cthulhu in d20 Modern, I’d say this book is a good start. If none of those appeal to you, though…yeah. As a very niche title with little to pluck out if you aren’t interested in its niche, I have to slightly lower the score of this title. Rather than an 8, I have to give Imperial Age: Magick a 7/10.