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Friday Reviews: BaF Games Muse Class for BX

I figured I wanted to go ahead and start a review column here as well as the News Roundup, preferably focusing on shorter works. The first one will be for a class written for BX-style games and available through Drivethrurpg.

BaF Games stands for "Basic as Fuck," which I find pretty charming. The book is written by Miranda Hunt, illustrated by Caitlin Hilwa, and costs 2.00 for an 8 page pdf, one of which is the cover and one of which is the OGL at the back, so we've got six pages of content. Disclaimer: I purchased this pdf after hearing about the author.

The cover depicts a woman in a tight-fitting dress, in a bit of what I would call a "come hither pose". It's not nearly as sexual as a lot of the fantasy art one sees, and looking inside fits the Muse class description pretty well. There's no title page listing credits, so I don't know if the cover is done by Caitlin as well, or just the interior art; the cover image does have a slight "stock art" feel to it (and is difference in feel to the other piece of art in the book). The image is reproduced on the first page, in black and white.

The cover further tells us that this is a full class (meaning a human with 14 levels) compatible with BX-style games, and contains new spells and a unique sword. Diving in, the first page tells us that some of the spells are take from The Other Side (Tim Brannan's blog/company).

The book doesn't mince words, jumping right into the class. A stat block is given up front, telling us it is a Charisma-based class, can use any weapons, cannot use armor, and has 1d6 hp per HD and 14 levels. Next, we're told that "The Muse is a Magic User who uses their arcane talents to sway emotions and enchant their companions". Next, it is clarified that Muses can use any weapons, cannot wear armor (but can use shields), and can use their Charisma instead of their Dexterity to modify their AC. I am of the "Gandalf" school in that I think magic-users should be able to use any weapon they want; for the most part, your magic-user isn't going to want to get in melee range anyway, so it shouldn't do much harm. It does open up the most diverse and powerful class of magic weapons, but again, I don't think the average magic-user in a BX-style game is going to want to get into melee anyway.

Muses gain a +1 roll to reaction checks (itself a pretty powerful bonus) and, while they draw spells from a limited list, gain and cast spells as magic-users. The advancement table provides more details. The muse requires 1.500 XP to reach 2nd level, has 1d6 hp per HD, magic-user attack progression, and a save progression that starts as a dwarf but progresses as a magic-user. At 14th level, the Muse far outranks the MU in saves. Spell progression is as a magic-user, but delayed to 2nd level, and the Muse does not have access to 6th level spells.

At a glance, without running the class through a formula (like the one I wrote for Into the Wild, or Erin Smale's excellent BX Class Options), it seems like the XP requirements are low. I'd bump it up to somewhere between fighter and magic-user, especially since they gain that +1 reaction bonus (on top of probably having a decent Charisma), have the much better save progression, and have 1d6 hp per HD instead of 1d4.

Upon reaching 11th level the Muse may found an art gallery, pleasure palace, or other similar structure, attracting 2d6 specialists who are devoted to the Muse. Unfortunately, there's no clarification of what these specialists do, how much they cost to maintain, etc. There's also no mention of how Muses research magic. I'm assuming they use the same rules as magic-users for researching spells and creating items, but this is also not spelled out.

Spells are up next, and are denoted as being either by the author, taken from standard BX sources (the formatting in the class section is similar to the one OSE uses), or from The Other Side. Muses have between 9 spells (1st level) and 6 (5th level) to choose from, and the spells are taken from both the magic-user and cleric list (they gain remove fear and resist cold at first, for example).

The new spells are pretty great and varied, with no direct damage spells and a focus on enchantments and beguiling. A minor quibble is that some of the spell descriptions are vague, and could stand to have some clarity: dance of the muse charms all of the living, intelligent creatures that can see the caster and fail their saving throws, with a range of 60'. That seems very powerful, even for a 5th level spell. My preference would be to play off the spell name, and rule that those within 60' are charmed only for the duration of the spell, which lasts for as long as the Muse dances, or sings, or something similar.

My other suggestion would be to, since the Old School Essentials Advanced spellbook is out, is to potentially add one or two illusionist spells to their repertoire at each level. Some spells, such as glamour, fit right into the concept of the Muse, and if the XP requirement is raised to a magic-user I don't think it would be too powerful. You could even drop some of the clerical spells (I'm not sure resist cold fits thematically, for instance).

Finally, we're given a unique magic sword, a blade with an everburning, non-flamable candle burning as a hilt. Besides providing illumination, thrice per day the intelligent sword can reveal hidden doors within 10'. If the light is ever hidden it functions as a normal dagger and triggers an attempt to control the wielder. The illustration is great, and is the only one (besides the Muse art on the first page) in the book.

Overall, this is a sound concept that could use some tweaking and updating; a Charisma-based casting class that is not the typical "sorcerer" is nice to see. The sword (which the author admits is not a Muse-specific weapon) is a great addition to this little book. Overall, I would recommend this supplement for anyone looking for a non-traditional, less combat oriented spellcasting class that can fulfill the role of a party face, or potentially a party nemesis. It's definitely worth the 2.00 (US) price.

One more thing: the introduction states that this is one of the base classes of an upcoming Dark Fantasy/Romantic Fantasy setting the author is working on. I look forward to checking out what she comes up with, and think this would be a good non-traditional base class for any swords and sorcery or Conan-esque game.

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