Starlight Mage Number 4

²1988 Steve Marsh

P.O.Box 2552

Wichita Falls, TX 76307


CASTLE PERILOUS, John DeChancie, 249 pages/$3.50 ACE.

You probably remember previous reviews of DeChancie's "Trucker in the Sky" stories. Good writing, solid characters, enjoyable reading. CASTLE PERILOUS is more of the same. This time DeChancie takes on a stock S&S convention -- the castle (or house) with thousands of rooms leading to other dimensions.

Unlike previous authors, who exploit the setting without justifying it, DeChancie's novel is set against the making/unmaking/remaking of such an artifact. The story hangs together well and makes solid sense. I enjoyed it while Win thought it took awhile to come together. Recommended. DeChancie has justified his editor's hope in him. With this book she has a mild winner.

DENNER'S WRECK, Lawrence Watt-Evans, 199 pages/$2.95 Avon.

New ground for Watt-Evans. Cyber-punk without the punk. (I.e. semi-hard tech without the doom and despair). Enjoyable, new character types for Watt-Evans, but nothing memorable. Recommended, but I'd really like to see more of his second fantasy world (the one of With a Single Spell and The Misenchanted Sword).

It is the story of 28 techno-humans and their vacation (for a few hundred years) on the world of Denner's Wreck where they watch pastoral humans live and die without progress in a stable world.

Of course not all of the immortals are perfect or sane. Not all of the mortals are pastoral and without imagination.

BLUE MAGIC, Jo Clayton, 333 pages/$3.95 DAW

Very, very satisfying. Very. I really enjoyed this book. Some may fault the foreshadowing as too accurate, some may dislike the "bleed-over" in style from the Skeen novels, some may be taken aback at the revealed origins of many of the godlings and some may gripe about the tone of the ending, but this book really satisfied me as I read it.

The second in the Drinker of Souls trilogy (and the first anyone knew that those books were a trilogy -- the first novel stands alone very well). Logical and natural developments wrapped around a story of gray vs gray. What I would expect from Bob Butler in a happy mood. Twisted artifacts, sordid (and assorted) gods, mixed innocents, and many likable characters.

This book has to be one of the five most satisfying reads of the year.


--A campaign setting for Three.

Assume that the magical half-world was sundered from our world back in the age of dinosaurs. Assume that the magical half-world was an undying realm dependent on a Teynd price. Assume that at varying times and places the barrier thinned. Now assume that one day the price was unpaid. (How is an entirely different story).

Now the half-world has returned. It is the world of Three. Half a step from our world, only a blink away, and merging as the two worlds come back together. Now, Three has a population density of about 30 million sentients of all kinds -- small when compared to 3,000 million in our world, but important in terms of power and impact. This means that the collision of the worlds will alter society.

Player characters either originate in the half-world or are avatars who faced a "moment of truth" that linked them to both sides of reality (a common element in shamanism is the mystical moment that links the shaman to the magical side of reality --I decided to use it in Three). The mix I found best in my Cthulu et. al. campaign was to have each player play one avatar and one canned character. Canned characters included a witch child, a physically active artist (hunting & climbing skills), a redlands noble, a cajun mafia hitwoman (this was in the early 80s before cajun was a trend) a futureworld engineer and a superhero. I designed the canned characters and handed them out during play.

Swords also goes well in this setting. (Swords was my Avatar design for Stormbringer) Have a faceless black man give each character a shapechanging demon sword (STR 10) and a small (SIZ 1) demon of desire (CON 20). And a mission.

Shadowplay, the name of this campaign use of Three, draws its name from what is happening as the worlds draw together. There is a slow war going on in the land of Three and each power center seeks to penetrate and prepare for the real world.

More "real" than most comics, a mix of ancient, future and modern, and a setting to thrust individuals into.


1. Ralph Sizer: My sources show the Semitic languages and peoples to be Indo-European. The non-Indo-European groups would include the Dravidians (pre-Aryan inhabitants of India), the Etruscans (a unique group that is reminiscent of a George Phillies society), the Basques (maybe), the Ainu and the original Finno-Urgic groups. Less than forty million people out of a billion or so Caucasians.

2. Lee Gold: My Indo-European article was heavily edited and re-written in an attempt to avoid offending a large number of people. My apologies for it having suffered somewhat in meaning.

As to female gods, there is a group that appears to be native to the Indo-Europeans (paragraph 3 on page two of Starlight Mage No. 2. see also paragraph 7). There is also an "outside" group of gods with strong female members and sex motifs (the best examples are the Vanir Gods in the Norse cycle).

Feel free to copy or excerpt it. Thanks for asking.

3. As a very devout and practicing member of a Christian religion, I am not always amused by overbroad and sweeping condemnations of Christianity. It should be noted that at the time of Christ Judaism consisted of rigid mechanists (including some Pharisees), enlightened scoffers (including some Sadducees), scholars (including some Scribes), political activists (including some Zealots), some separatists and utopians (including some Essenes and related groups), some paganized groups (including some Samarians), mainstream religious observations, philosophical greek influenced groups, mystery practitioners and more.

The multiple subdivisions of the above are well reflected in the plethora of Christian groups documented in existence circa 100 A.C.E. (after the common era -- a generic replacement for A.D.).

I generally consider it unfair and shallow to narrow down "Christianity" to the heavily platonic post-Constantine church as seen by revisionist historians. For more depth I would suggest The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson <editor>, Harper and Row; The Gnostic Scriptures, Bently Layton <editor>, Doubleday; The Book of Abraham, Hugh Nibley, Deseret Book; etc. My suggested starters do have a heavy Gnostic bent, but are a good starting point.

4. George Phillies: Thank you for continuing the story. I've been waiting for more ever since the last installment.

Questions: a) Why do the genetically identical "un-men" heal so much faster, b) What are the long range (heck, short range -- only a thousand years or so) implications of the professor (and his friends and the Vrijjn) learning magic (and proper gating); c) Why did rune magic lapse into such obscurity?

Can we PBM in Mellowdelphia? Speaking of which, how George's PBM really ended (or what happened to that story anyway?).

When we last saw the PCs they were in the middle of a mess. To the North was a chaotic and untamed wilderness continent. To the West was open Ocean. To the East was an empire driven by slaves and gunpowder. To the South was a violent and energetic culture driven by rapine, pillage and human sacrifice.

Worse, the domestic god was long faded and the goddess was so integrated into the web of day-to-day life that she was unable to manifest herself strongly. (She may also have been blocked by "Surtur"). The locals had the motto "Sleep first, city second, play third." They were as disciplined and cohesive as modern college students with large trust funds.

Luckily the locals were into sex, drugs/alcohol and wargames for recreation. We introduced rock and roll rules variants. Using the magic gates in the temples to send re-inforcements. Upping the scale to more than one island at a time. Adding in a central command. Ganging up on the sea-huns/blood-vikings. Using troops trained to march in step and fight in open order (like romans).

As for the slave-empire, a little cantrip here and there . . . actually, we re-introduced the fire-spark cantrip. Its a little spell, easily learned by any class, useful for starting fires close to hand or within a hundred yards or so. Works fine on gunpowder.

The islanders chopped the sea-hun flotillas to shreds. The empire had a collapse in force (and the surviving sea-huns to worry about). Roger and Ariel retired to the "original" island and opened a library/magic school/theologic seminary. They also restarted the extinct side of the booksellers trade. Roger found a great deal to like about the islanders and determined to stay and take care of them, studying long-term decline trends and taking strategic steps to forestall future problems.

Elolare returned home loaded with magic and gold (and very little iron). He had discharged his apprenticeship to Roger, learned more than enough of human legal systems and had made the haul of a lifetime. Sajjar, whose realm was doomed and whose religious convictions were less than skin deep, apprenticed himself and learned magic from Barb. Annabelle and her elephants married a local boy. All the other characters came to suitable endings.

However, we never did find out half the secrets. I pestered George a bit, but finally gave up. If anyone knows the answers, send me a letter. It was great. Thanks George. I'd gladly do it again.

5. Blade Kirk: I've been looking for a good compilation of Weland the Cripple/Weland the Smith stories. Suggestions? // I'd like to see your system in TWH.

6. David Dunham: Thank-you for encouraging Antoine Bertier. I muchly enjoyed.

7. Mark M. Keller: But people do take their stats to guidance counselors. In High School (in Idaho) I took dexterity, math, multi-factor intelligence and such tests and a guidance counselor indexed them to suggest suitable career fields. I also took some personality tests that match your preferences to happy individuals in various career fields. // Please do a prozine article based on "the facts."

8. Swamp Castle: Szigetvar was mentioned in passing in the article about the turkish king who almost conquered Vienna but who was delayed in besieging Szigetvar. // Compare the Etruscan treatment of women with the Roman and you'll see slaves.

9. Hmm, looks like we are turning into the first Champions APA. I'm enjoying the write-ups and the increased bulk. Someone ought to send a copy to the Hero magazine.

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