M.A.G.U.S. subtitled Avagy a Kalandorok krónikái (Or the Adventurer Chronicles), colloquially also known as Mákos (Lucky), Mókus (Squirrel) or the Nagy Ződ' (Ye Big Green), is the secondnote , most influential and probably only ever marginally successful Hungarian tabletop role-playing game.
It's based on the fantasy novels A Halál Havában (In the month of Death, 1990) and Észak Lángjai (Flames of North, 1991) by Gáspár András and Novák Csanád (they wrote under the Pen Name "Wayne Chapman") and was first published in 1993, then republished with minor bugfixes several times in the following years culminating in a major revision in 1999 that got a cold reception. In 2004 the game got a d20 rewrite and later in 2007 a modernized edition of its original system. It suffered a lot of publisher changes, dispute between the creators in its turbulent history.
The gamesystem is quite rules heavy (not Rolemaster level but still) and uses percentage based resolution except when it doesn't. To elaborate basically from the four different editions only the d20 one had a unified mechanic. The whole original system is a mess of percentage based, base number and add roll, roll under with d10, etc. mechanics.
The gameworld, called Ynev, was originally Low Fantasy / Standard Fantasy Setting, but later got expanded with more and more Cyber Punk and Horror (mostly Cosmic Horror) elements and was subjected to frequent and abusive Ret Cons as time went by. And there were also more and more novels of varying quality published that shaped it, for better or worse, as many times the fiction writers didn't know much about the RPG.
This game provides examples of:
- Adventure-Friendly World: Sometimes reading the books made people wonder how any muggles could ever survive in this world
- Alien Non-Interference Clause: A godly one. Gods may only act through their minions and believers... because reasons. Not that it stops them from being Rules Lawyer.
- Class and Level System: Mostly with Fantasy Character Classes.
- Black Comedy / Gallows Humor: Darton, the god of death from the Pyarron pantheon, has this as addition to what you expect his domain would be, so all his believers are prone to it.
- Depending on the Writer: One of the biggest problems of the game and the novels was the lack of unifying direction, which resulted in this and the Gameplay and Story Segregation.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Aquir. Also the old gods in the stars. This game had a lot of Lovecraftian influences, but no Sanity Meter oddly.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: This was the base conflict in the racial war between the Precursor races Amund (Emotion, hidden race) and the Dzsenn (Stoicism, Supernatural Elite of the Dzsad).
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Several. The Dzsad are obviously Arabian influenced, Enoszuke is Chinese-Japanese, Shadon vaguely European Middle Ages etc..
- Fantasy World Map: One suspiciously reminiscent of the Mediterranean-Sea.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: There is the game and the gamestats that say what a character can or cannot do, and there are the official novels and other assorted background material that give backstory, flavor etc. They don't match.
- Hot Witch: Not mandatory, but witches get a bonus on their "Beauty" roll, and a spell that turns them into one if they aren't.
- Hub City: Erion the City of Adventurers.
- Inhumanly Beautiful Race: The elves' "Beauty" score caps at 21 (normal humans 18, if specifically beautiful class 20), the Hurii don't come in anything else but 21, the Amunds' cap at 23.
- Insistent Terminology:
- Adventurer is Kalandozó not Kalandor learn the difference! (Despite the subtitle.)
- The time unit for spellcasting is not seconds it's segments.
- Jerkass Gods: The default setting. If they aren't jerks they are evil (the one god Ranagol, Orwella from the Pyarron pantheon etc.) or mad (the Kyr god Tharr, Della from the Pyarron pantheon). The Godly Non Interference Clause is a very very good thing.
- Light Is Not Good / Good Is Not Nice: Depending of interpretation the one god Domvik, Sogron the Kyr god of fire (and knowledge) counts too, and the Elves. Generally it is hard to find nice and merciful gods, old races or anyone powerful even when they embody light or are nominally good.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Yes. And a lot of missed playtesting too.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis / Recursive Canon: OK. The tabletop game and novels are inspired by the "Adventurer Chronicles" kept by monks in a remote monastery of the gameworld. There were also hints that it's a Reality-Writing Book in ways (one canonical NPC-s managed to erase himself from it... which made him Immune to Fate).
- Loads and Loads of Rules: Yes. And contradictory mechanics. Like:
- Measuring time in turns in battles but in seconds (it's segments) when spellcasting ... now if someone uses magic in battles, ummmmm, let's say a turn is 10 segments. OK?
- Or several different ways to measure skill proficiency: Some have levels (originally two, later this got expanded to 5 or even more), some are percentage based, how these relate is a great mystery.
- The Magocracy: Toron, the towns of the Sogronite Fire Mages... as basically any culture having Kyr precursors has a tendency to this.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Krán, and basically any place that happens to worship Ranagol.
- Numerological Motif: The Kyr (and any culture they fathered) had/have an obsession with odd numbers... even numbers are either considered unlucky or are pretended to not exist.
- Plagiarism: Not the game itself even if it wasn't as original as its developers liked to pretend, but some of the art was... researched. Like this◊ little demonstration. Left one is from the Cyberpunk 2020 Roleplaying Game the right from A Démon Átka (The Demon's Curse) adventure module published for M.A.G.U.S..
- Playing with Fire: Several magic users but it's the stated specialty of the Sogronite Fire Mages.
- Precursors: The Elves, the Kyr, the Aquir, The Amund, The Dzsen, The Dragons etc.. And your adventurer can be unlucky enough to encounter any of these. But he likely won't live to tell the tale.
- Point Buy: The revisions aimed to this. Their success is questionable.
- Purple Prose: The books (the novels are worse) are written in a style that defies "People Sit On Chairs" (they "put down their behinds on richly padded seats" for example) and seriously reeks of thesaurus abuse.
- Retcon / Cerebus Retcon: As ever. The game world (Ynev) began as Standard Fantasy Setting then the more and more supplemental material got published the darker and bleaker it became. Around the turn of the century it was basically The Dung Ages with traces of Dungeon Punk. Or for a smaller scale example: The elves were the tolkienesque Incorruptible Pure Pureness at the beginning but turned into a Dying Race of Absolute Xenophobes, who are just marginally less homicidal than the other old races.
- Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Neither Hungarian Fantasy/RPG writers apparently, all data seems to be basically Ass Pull which resulted in oddities like the gameworld being bigger than Pangaea and the frozen north having an average temperature of +11 degrees Celsius.
- Sourcebook: In it's long run it got several. Some of the more notable:
- Worldbooks: Summarium: A teremtés könyvei (Summarium: The books of creation) is the most comprehensive setting book evernote ; Geoframia kivonatok: Enoszuke (Excerpts from Geoframia: Enoszuke) about the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Japan.
- Splatbooks: Papok, Paplovagok Kézikönyve (Handbook of Priests and Paladins) volumes 1 and 2; Harcosok, Gladiatorok, Barbárok (Fighters, Gladiators, Barbarians).
- Catalogs: The Bestiárium (Bestiary) even got three different editions.
- Rule expansions: Második törvénykönyv (The Second Book of Law) which had new classes, races, weapons and special rules to make combat even more complicated; Új tekercsek (The New Scrolls) which is basically what ever got written (and not really playtested) from the Summarium rule revision so a Point Buy system and a revision of the skills (but still no unified mechanic).
- Supernatural Elite: Many Precursors races are Man Behind the Man nobility in the countries of the gameworld.
- The Scottish Trope: You never ever say you'll officially remake this game or A Nyúl átka will smite you. You have been warned.
- Unconventional Alignment: Slight variation on the standard Character Alignment system as it has a Chaos-Law axis and a Death-Life one which represents how much the character values life and has nothing to do with good and evil.
- Wandering Minstrel: the Bard character class.
- A Wizard Did It: Well, the standard answer for implausible being and ability combinations (like the 'stealth giant') were "Inherited magical abilities" which is just one step away from "It's magic, we don't have to explain it!".
- Also for the geographical and larger scale weirdness (Anything that would fit under Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale and various Artistic License tropes) "It's a created world" ... so "The Gods Did It!". Which one and how (as there were many and the rise of humanity was a fairly recent event according to setting material) was never explained.
- You Keep Using That Word: Many, but maybe the most aggravating was their tendency to use készség to mean thing/object when in contemporary Hungarian its only valid meaning is ability/willingness (and in the novels they also tended to put it in italic, someone was obviously very proud of it).