08 August 2013

Little Wizards

Little Wizards (Contes Ensorcelés), by 7ème Cercle (7th Circle), translated by Franck Florentin and Amanda Valentine, and distributed by Crafty Games, is a game of magical adventure in the fictional setting of Coinworld.

Above and beyond everything else, Little Wizards is cute. The premise is that you play a young Wizard of either the Sorcerer or Magician tradition and travel Coinworld having adventures. These generally take the form of seeing and learning new things, meeting new people and making friends, getting into some mostly harmless trouble and generally helping out.

Coinworld itself is a curious place and the name mostly gives it away. This disc-shaped world has two sides, named Heads and Tails; though the sides are mostly unaware of each other. Each of the sides is made of five archipelagos that appear somewhat as reflections of each other. There is even some musing that everything on one side has a counterpart on the other, but it is expressed as theory (though clearly a plot seed in disguise). 

The Heads side of Coinworld is full of light and cheerful, while the Tails side is darker and appears a little more dangerous. Don't be fooled, the Tails side just seems that way, underneath the craggy exterior, it is just as fun and welcoming, only in a different way. The various island chains on each side at times operate on their own rules - Coinworld isn't a place where you try and make sense of these things, rather you accept them for what they are.

There aren't any known ways to move between Heads and Tails, which is why the existence of the flip side is largely unknown, but there are some magical effects that can transport a Wizard between them. In fact, that very thing happens in one of the included adventures.

While every Wizard has magic, it isn't the end all, be all of the game. It is encouraged (and mechanically reinforced) to have magic simply be an aid which allows you to do things you couldn't normally, not be a replacement for your creativity and natural talents. Creative problem solving is the most useful tool you can bring to the table in this game.

Each of the traditions is different in how they practice magic and what they can do with it. Sorcerers have magic passed down through their lineage - somewhere there was another Sorcerer in your family, even if it wasn't your parents or grandparents. The unique magic a Sorcerer can gain access to are Alchemy and Divination. Magicians, on the other hand, learn magic the hard way: through training. They can gain access to Conjuring and Shapechaging. Every Wizard has Broom Riding and all can learn Spellcasting.

The system behind Little Wizards is very simple, requiring only 2d6 and applying a modifier (up to a +2, unless you get a little help) compared against a difficulty from 5 to 10. Character creation focuses primarily on describing your character, from their appearance and personality, to their signature feature that really sets them apart and tastes. There are tables for all of these elements to give ideas and provide some guidance if needed.

Beyond your traits and powers, which have bonuses, the most important things to choose are your Wizard Gear. This includes describing your Broom, Hat, Wand and Familiar. Every Wizard has those and they make up an important part of your character, often relating something about them; visual clues to what they like and where they come from. Perhaps your Sorcerer's hat was handed down from a favorite aunt, or your Magician's wand a gift from a mentor?

The exception is the familiar, which is your Wizard's constant friend and companion. Familiars come in every variety of animal out there and you can have any color you want, as long as you want black. That being said, there are obviously some considerations to make for size and being exclusively aquatic. An orca is pretty awesome, but going to limit the kind of adventures you can have quite a bit.

With all of that, what is Little Wizards really good at? There are a couple areas that it really excels in. One is a game for younger players, particularly to introduce them to gaming. There is quite a bit of advice given regarding children as players and the nature of the game encourages teamwork, creativity, building friendships, and generally making good decisions. The lack of any violence whatsoever also plays to this strength a great deal.

Another area where Little Wizards shines is as an introductory game into GMing. The system is simple and emphasizes applying a difficulties with minimal modifiers; there isn't a lot to keep track of. As well, the setting is very light with some strong themes, but very little content to master. This makes it easy to have a place to start, but without the sense that you have to know everything. It seems that can be an easy place for prospective GMs to stall out.

Throughout the book, GMing advice is given and frequently repeated when it is relevant. One of the techniques discuss is failing forward, which is a valuable skill to learn and can have important lessons for younger players: it's not that you failed, but that you learned from your failure. This is built on by the inclusion of three adventures, each building on the previous in both story and complexity. The first is a simple, linear adventure with minimal setting. It focuses on telling the story, setting difficulties and introducing situations where players can explore creative solutions.

In the second adventure, one of the archipelagos is discussed in some detail as the setting. This gives some information regarding world-building. The adventure itself has more interactions and is a little less linear. The players are encouraged to explore their surroundings more and eventually engaging in some adventure.

Finally, the third adventure introduces a more detailed and different setting. There is simply more to learn, but it shows off a great deal more variety in what can be accomplished. The task itself is very open ended and requires learning pacing, as well as multiple avenues to victory.

In the end, this is a fun, lighthearted game that is wonderful for families or any groups with younger players. Even adults that are looking for something cute will find something to like here. Anyone that is interested in, but intimidated by the prospect of becoming a GM can also find some valuable techniques and information here.