Advanced d20 Magic is the magic system book from Guardians of Order for their BESM d20 line. The cover shows an aged wizard much like Merlin or Gandalf; a young teenaged kid that could be studying at a fictious magic school ala Harry Potter, and a female Dervish.

Advanced d20 Magic brings in a whole new look at magic in the d20 System. Based on the casting system of Slayers d20, the book introduces a new system in d20. The magic system in Advanced d20 Magic is sophisticated and uses the present system for Skill Based mechanics for spellcasting. Thus, it displaces the aged, Vancian System written in the original d20 Fantasy Game.

This system works by depending on the caster's training and his inherent stamina, both physical and spiritual. The system relies on the fortitude saving throw to save the caster from exorable magical stress. This stress is called drain. Basically, when a wizard or dynamic sorcerer casts a spell, he or she must make a fortitude save. If it misses by 10 or more, then the stress of summoning the magical energies takes its toll and stresses the character out. A control check is needed to see if the magic works, and the spellcaster becomes fatigued.

If the control check fails, the magic spell itself fails. This ranges from the comedic (the spell goes away in a puff of colored smoke) to the downright dangerous (the fireball blows up centered on you!) Further, missing fortitude spellcasting rolls progresses the spellcaster from fatigued to exhausted to finally unconsciousness for a period of time. Finally, casting spells requires concentration. So if your sorcerer is casting spells in the heat of battle, you will need Combat Casting. Combat Casting becomes imperative for a battling sorcerer.

Beyond this, Advanced d20 Magic provides rules for sustained spells, and also clarifies how the BESM d20 attribute: Dynamic Sorcery; works. In fact, this system completely balances Dynamic Sorcery; and that will be explained later. After the magic attribute is explained, the book then provides how each forms of spells works: from incantations (the most simple), to rituals and magic foci (sing. focus). After that, rules for investments: both body and mind, are explained. For instance, you can invest your hit points into casting a spell, making magic that much more painful to cast. This is the investment of body. The book also explains how metamagic feats work in the system as well as other considerations like cooperative spellcasting, magical defenses, and casting multiple spells.

Rules for learning spells and inventing spells are also provided. As well as altering magic levels, so the system will work with a gritty, no-nonsense fantasy world like Conan’s world of Hyboria or something revolutionary like — Wizards of the Coast’s Eberron as well as a Japanese Anime based on Western Fantasy like Slayers or The Record of Lodoss War.

After all this, the book describes how the system works with the Standard Classes as well as the BESM d20 Classes. Besides balancing out the Dynamic Sorcerer, who gains a number of spell slots (which is used to cast spells) – the Standard Classes are affected in a major way. The Bard, for instance, gets a limited number of spell slots to cast spells with. The Cleric and Druid have longer spellcasting times, and the druid can even cast spells in animal form without the Natural Spell feat (which makes the druid class, which is already the most powerful and unbalanced casting class in all of d20-dom, even more powerful and insane). The paladin and ranger are treated the same, and the sorcerer gains a new class ability – Drain Resistance – at levels 5, 10, 15, and 20; as well as a dynamic way of learning new spells. Finally, the Wizard keeps his unlimited spell library ability, and his spellcasting ability works like the Dynamic Sorcerer.

After this is done, rules for magic items are given. In BESM d20, however, magic items may be created, but without an expenditure of Character Points the magic item is not tied to your character and so the DM can take it away from you. In standard games, you create items as normal, but doing so invites drain.

After this, rules for converting spells from products such as Atlas Games’ Occult Lore, Wizards of the Coast’s Magic of Eberron, or Monte Cook’s The Book of Eldritch Might to the new system are given. Basically, you start out a table of base DCs starting with 15 for 0-level spells to 51 for 9th level spells. Then you can add modifiers based on what the spell needs. As examples, the book then provides some sample spells, including the infamous wish spell. After that, hundreds of spells are added from the System Reference Document along with descriptions and their DCs.

Critical Hits and Misses

The System is beautiful, elegant, and dangerous. Druids are still out of balance with the rest of the spellcasters, but it seems that they are made even more out of balance. Creating spells, however, is very rules light. There aren’t any good rules for creating new spells. So, the player and dungeon master are relegated to creating the spell as normal, assigning a level, then various DCs as appropriate to make the new spell work. In other words, more paperwork is needed.

Epic Spells aren’t touched by the book at all. But if you want Epic Spelldom, get yourself a copy of Slayers d20 and adjust the DCs as appropriate to balance Slayer spells with regular d20 system spells. Dragon Slave and Giga Slave, for instance, would be epic and their DCs would be above 90 or even 100.

Aside from certain rules problems (like creating new spells), the system is very balanced. Instead of memorizing spells, and firing and forgetting them, your wizard and sorcerer can fire off spells and actually suffer stress doing so. This makes spellcasting much more dangerous. I highly recommend it if you are looking for an alternative to the Vancian system.