It is the fourth and final installment of our trek across cryptozoological Ireland. While there are any number of clurichauns and corpse candles and salmon of knowledge left on the folkloric table, the selkie has a special place in my heart. That’s because the very first campaign Laurel and I played together was a pirate game. I’ve talked about my goblin cabin boy before, but Laurel was our captain. A selkie captain. And I can’t believe I only just now made the connection to My Hero Academia. There’ll be no living we me.

Any dang way, before I get inundated with the inevitable chorus of “that’s not how druids work,” I’d like to make two points. First and most importantly: bite me. But since naked animus doth a poor blog make, let’s talk instead about that other thing going on in today’s comic. Namely, the cost of magic.

Since Handbook-World occasionally follows the logic of Dungeons & Dragons, we can start with our old pal Jack Vance. I’m quite fond of the guy for one of my all-time favorite fantasy quotes, but I understand if you guys have other opinions. Gamers tend to have strong feelings about Vancian magic, but the Dying Earth version of spell slinging does make an interesting touchpoint. You can only keep so many spells in your head at once. They disappear from your brain upon casting. You’ve got to re-learn them through study the next day. These are exactly the kinds of limitations that we’re talking about.

Other examples abound. Since we already let our weeb flags fly with the Captain Selkie reference, you could just as easily point to the weakness of One For All. Here’s a superpower that literally destroys the user’s body with a fraction of its potential. The whole sell-your-soul-for-power theme of liches and warlocks applies here too. And since I’m finally about to  finish the series after all these years, the pseudo-druids of Animorphs have their hard time limit of two hours before getting stuck forever in animal form.

If any of you guys are worldbuilders in your spare time, you ‘ve probably read this advice before. Outlining the limitations of your magic system helps with verisimilitude. It gives stakes to action sequences, keeping your heroes from becoming invincible supermen. And in terms of TRPG gameplay, it gives interesting decisions to your PCs, asking them to weigh carefully when and how to cast their spells.

So for today’s discussion, what do you say we talk about magic systems and limitations? Who gets it right in terms of balance? What is the most interesting limitation you’ve seen on magic use? And is there a version of ‘the cost of magic’ that strikes you as especially unfun? Whether you’re a superhero, a wizard, or a kid permanently stuck as a red-tailed hawk, tell us all about the limits of your power down in the comments!


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!