Poor Ninja. Dude is having yet another weapons malfunction. Shō ga nai, I guess. That’s what happens when you try to substitute science for magic.

Today’s comic may look like a Daffy Duck homage… and I suppose it is. Alchemist’s business practices are despicable after all. But what I’m really looking to talk about are weird corner cases. Namely, the ones that crop up when you try to invent effects that function “like magic.” In my experience, they tend to blow up in your face.

This isn’t just an issue for bomb-chucking Jekyll and Hyde types. We could just as easily discuss the difficulties that arise when you go nuts the homebrew and ignore psionics-magic transparency. We might talk about the difficulty of balancing weeaboo fightan magic. But this issue reared its head at my own table in the form of a Pathfinder 1e alchemist, and so it serves as my example.

From a flavor perspective, I love the idea of drinking crazy tonics and tinctures to mimic spells. That’s mad science 101. But back when I started out in the system, trying to make rulings that didn’t annoy seven hells out of my alchemist was all manner of difficult. How did those spell-adjacent “extracts” function? Did they work in anti-magic zones? Did drinking one provoke an attack of opportunity? Could those delicate glass vials be sundered as you “cast” them? Is an alchemist a spellcaster for the purpose of crafting magic items? Can I put multiple “spells” in a beer bong and chug?

Don’t get me wrong: It’s fully possible to find the answers to these questions via close reading and helpful FAQ posts. But the fact that we had to pause the game and run a rules lookup just to “cast” a basic-ass spell got old in a hurry.

So here’s the question for you goodly residents of Handbook-World. What is your favorite magic-like system? Did it interface seamlessly with an existing magic system, replace it, or leave you scratching your head in rules befuddlement? Sound off with all your own weird corner cases down in the comments!


GEEKY GREETING CARDS For a limited time only this holiday this season, we’re bringing back our dice ornament X-mas cards over on Laurel’s Etsy store. We’re also rocking our ever-popular d20 Class prints, now updated to include designs for the Artificer, Warlock, and GM. So come one come all! Whether their alignment is Naughty or Nice, give a geek in your life a happy holiday.


GET YOUR SCHWAG ON! Want a piece of Handbook-World to hang on you wall? Then you’ll want to check out the “Hero” reward tier on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Each monthly treasure haul will bring you prints, decals, buttons, bookmarks and more! There’s even talk of a few Handbook-themed mini-dungeons on the horizon. So hit the link, open up that treasure chest, and see what loot awaits!