If you don’t want to sit through an entire review, I’ll summarize right now: This supplement is a must have for all Cypher players who not only wish to convert their D&D friends, but any Cypher player who adores fantasy in general. This supplement absolutely rocks and is jam packed with inspiring tidbits for any fantasy game. It won’t spell everything out for you, but it will give you all of the tools you need to run effective magic in your games.
Brought to us by the de facto Cypher System master, the Alpha Dean, the Vade Mecum provides not only a glimpse into how to convert a classic fantasy wizard into the Cypher System, but gives us a way of doing so that reminds us of the core flexibility that the system provides.
The supplement starts off with some worldbuilding flavor. It outlines some key concepts for magic levels ranging from the gritty to the fantastic, and the types of spellcasters that can exist in your world. It’s not comprehensive, but it gives just enough for a cunning GM to twist and mutate into something that fits the exact type of game that they want to run.
The worldbuilding is followed with a few new spellcasting rules, most notably the Primal (Primordial) Pool, and an extensive spell list and some advice on reskinning them for your game.
The Primal, or Primordial, Pool is easily the most significant addition to the core ruleset. At its core, it’s an entire fourth pool that exists to augment your existing spells and abilities, along with some spell counter measures. It comes with its own rules for advancement, “mastery”, and “backlash”, a system that succinctly represents the chaos that comes with manipulating pure energy.
The spell list is chock full of spells that represent many fantasy tropes, along with advice on reskinning them to fit your specific characters or world. Many of the spells invoke classic fantasy TTRPGs, while still fitting within the realm of the Cypher System. They are all solidly written and clearly worded, to minimize conflict at the game table.
The book ends with some rules on Enchanting, and the table for Backlash effects. While not the focus of the book, I find this execution of enchantment to be one of the cleaner ones out there for Cypher System. There’s no written limit on what Enchanting can do, or even how much it costs – but that’s the beauty of it. As the GM, you’re allowed to play with it and see what works for your table, and what’s fun for your players.
And that really is the core of this book – comprehensive and clear, but flexible enough to be worked into any game table. There’s no prescribed method of play here, it’s all meant to be turned and twisted in whichever way you want. And in that aspect, I’d say the author pulled off what he wanted – a magical system that invokes the flexibility of the system it’s supplementing.
If you held me at gunpoint and forced me to give a criticism, I’d say that perhaps some more commentary or lore about the main “character” of this book, Mal’Vandal, would have been appreciated. Perhaps even a way to implement the man himself into a game.
Overall, I’d definitely say that this is an essential for anyone looking to replicate or relive the feeling of Vancian spellcasting in Cypher System.