Tuesday 13 June 2017

Liber Arcanum

Liber Arcanum was written by Jeffrey A Rhodes-Gloor, with additional material (Daelin’s Journals) by Rhomi van Ekorn, Art is by Laura Bost, Chris Parillo, Jon Willson, and J. Rhodes-Gloor. The publisher is Cognition Pressworks.

This product uses the same monster entry format as Creatures, Critters, & Denizens, which is either a plus or a minus, depending upon your viewpoint. It also uses the term "Storyteller" instead of judge, which I find irksome, but which has no real effect on the content.

This is a large, dense volume with a lot of material to cover. Let's dive right in!

Optional rules

This section covers optional rules for spellcasting. These optional rules are:

Optional Counter-Spell rule: Because sometimes you want to counter a spell without jumping into a full-fledged spell duel.

Increased Spell Failure: The higher the level spell, the higher the chance of failure. The spells in this volume are formatted assuming that you will be using this rule, but there really is no difficulty in ignoring the formatting if not.

Spell-books: Hubris has some excellent rules for spellbooks. These rules are a bit more fiddly, mechanics-wise, but there is no reason that you cannot use them together.

Reversing Spells: Some more information on reversing spells, including canceling, destroying, or hiding spell effects.

5th Level Spells: An optional rule to make 5th level spells harder to cast, and one which is used in this book. This means that you will need to do a little work if you want to use the 5th level spells herein without using this rule, but (1) that isn't too horribly difficult to do, and (2) you could easily rule that the "5th Level Spells" rule only applies to spells from this tome!

Beyond 5th Level Spells: This is an expansion on the idea that greater (ritual) magic may exist than even 5th level spells would allow for. This includes Greater Rituals (essentially 6th level spells), Rites (7th level spells), Ceremonies (8th level spells), and Sacraments (9th level spells).

Thieves and Runes: An option that allows thieves to inscribe runes, including runes drawing runes in the air without the standard penalty.

Deeper Mysteries

In addition to optional rules, Liber Arcanum introduces "Deeper Mysteries" - things that wizards might learn to increase their occult lore and differentiate one from another. Arcane casters may learn a single Deeper Mystery, plus one per every three levels. Deeper Mysteries are not necessarily learned, either. There is a chance to learn one (if possible) at each level, and that chance never exceeds 50%, unless modified by Luck or Intelligence.

Obviously, the judge can also award a Deeper Mystery (either a roll on 1d24 or a specific choice) as a reward within a particular adventure. This is especially useful if the judge wants to see something in play, or if the player wants to Quest For It.

Not every Deeper Mystery requires special rules. You might gain the opportunity for a patron bond. You might gain a chance to learn one or more new spells. You might gain a point of Intelligence. Or you might gain one of these:

  • Mystery # 1: Lesser Spell Ritual
  • Mystery # 2: Harmonic and disharmonic casting
  • Mystery # 3: New Benefits for Rituals
  • Mystery # 4: Durable Scrolls (including a Scroll Mishaps Table)
  • Mystery # 5 Faerie Secrets
  • Mystery # 6 The Game of Antonyms

Magic and the Elements

This chapter describes elemental forces (using a five elemental system, with both positive and negative spiritual energy). This leads to a discussion of Animancers & Necromancers. The author writes:

In the paradigm of a sorcery & swords fantasy environment, the dualistic concept of Spirit can have other, more subtle, yet profound applications. Spells such as Breathe life, Eternal Champion, Stamina, and other such spell manifestations can then be a form of elemental magic, as would Animate Dead, and a host of the spells traditionally thought to be the purview of clerics like Restore Vitality, or any other type of curative/ restorative magic. Among the stranger manifestations found within this elemental model is the idea that both positive and negative energy can be used to animate items. In the case of negative energy this takes the form of the parade of undead creatures from skeletons all the way up to the mighty lich and other fell spirits. Any of these same types of creatures can be found in the benign realm of positive energy;mostly in non-physical forms like helpful Ghosts, Invisible Companions, Eternal Champions, or anything animated via the Breathe Life spell or involving magical force. In fact, under this model it is possible to do away with the entire concept of clerics and deities.

The cleric is then reskinned and transformed into the animancer and the necromancer, arcanists who deal with spiritual energies.

This chapter also offers diagrams of Celestial Geometry, a table of Random Planes, and "Random things & other useful charts" This last includes spotting distances, minor demons, a quick reference to spell success and mishaps using the optional rules in this book, and a table of random spells. There is also a one-page discussion of the "[m]eta-magical effects of arcane ingredients upon spell casting and item creation", which is limited to bone, ceramics, iron, mithril, and star-metal, but which might offer the judge some inspiration.


The Liber Arcanum contains five fully developed patrons. These are:

  • The Queen of Battle
  • Gydrion the Wanderer
  • Avridar, King of Air
  • Brinae, Queen of Water
  • Hraalvid, King of Earth
  • Kandri-sek, Queen of Fire

Each of these patrons has one or more "extras". such as aquamancers for Brinae or "On the wizardly uses of gems and minerals" and geomancers for Hraalvid.


If you are looking for new spells for your Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, this book has them. Judges may use these spells as-is, may offer them as special treasures, or may even use them as patron spells for patrons of her own devising. Some may be powers unique to a magic item, or a cabal of wizards. They may be objects of quests by players keen for more arcane knowledge, or the judge can simply include them in the known spells that wizards and elves may have a chance to learn.

There are too many spells in the Liber Arcanum to describe them beyond their names. These spells are:

  • 1st level: Cloud of Fresh Air, Incomprehensible Babbling, Obscuring Mist, Pilfer Voice, Reduce, Rending, and Runic Alphabet, Mortal (Lost Runes).
  • 2nd level: Acid Resistance, Agility, Determined Locomotion, Electricity Resistance, First Aid, Mind Shield, Protection from (*), Silence, Sonic Resistance, and Wizard Lock.
  • 3rd level: Destroy Potion, Encrypt Magical Writing, Fynderlang’s Forceful Flinger, Lesser Devastation, Make Armor, Panoramic Projectile Protection, Paroxysm, Planar Isolation, Runic Alphabet, Fey (Lost Runes), Stamina, and Wizard Hovel.
  • 4th level: Adhibitis Ossa, Arcane Veil, Magic Hat, Telekinesis, Transmute Air, Transmute Earth (additional entries), Transmute Fire, Transmute Water, Wand Magic, and Weakening.
  • 5th level: Devastation, Resilience, Transmute Spirit, and Wizard’s Tower.

Greater Rituals

This describes the Tattooing ritual: "By means of this ritual a wizard or other caster of arcane magic can have one or more spells that they know bonded directly to their flesh." Includes statistics for feral tattoos!


This describes the Pocket Reality rite: "This powerful Rite allows the participants to create a number of permanent refuges of varying sizes and internal principles. All results are permanent and will have at least one entrance on the Ethereal Plane, which is always the first gate created by the spell. All else is subject to the whims of the participants in the rite, their funds available, and willingness to spellburn."

Appendix I

The appendix covers:

  • Miscellaneous Magic Items
  • Expanded Magic Weapons (new powers, banes, and bane effects)
  • Generic Magic Weapon & Armor Sheet
  • Pre-generated Magic Weapons (with numerous examples)
  • Blank rune tile sets (for mortal and fey runes)

Please note the following from the Legal and Advertising end pages (page 290; 295 in the pdf):

Cognition Pressworks is proud to support the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game. To this purpose, the publisher and author hereby grant limited permission to use any 2 patrons and their attendant information including tables, and spells, but not artwork: or, up to 4 spells, their attendant information including tables and critters, but not their art work. Prospective publishers must include names of items used with the following copy: “{names of spells or patrons} are used with permission. Additional material from Liber Arcanum published by Cognition Pressworks, Jeffrey Rhodes-Gloor, copyright 2014" in a reasonably prominent location (such as the credits section of the book, or in the licensing section) to obtain this permission.

This means that the Liber Arcanum, like Critters, Creatures, & Denizens before it, is of real use not only to the harried judge, but also to the harried judge who would like to one day see his frenzied creations in print.

Get It Here!

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