This game (as many of you already know) was bought and re-published by Dan Proctor, who got it from God-only-knows where. The first thought one has when looking at the thing is: why republish this, yet another variation on classic D&D? What makes it special?
You can play a Metamorphic Dwarf Assassin or a Demonic Halfling Jester. Half-Elves don’t get to be angsty. Instead of Paladins, you get White Knights (who save princesses from towers) and Black Knights (who lock princesses up in towers). You can be a Fighter, or you can be an Attacker, a Defender, or a Destroyer. Dragons only come in the gemstone variety, like Amethyst or Malachite. In fact, many of the monsters are made of crystal or are a very specific kind of demon. Wizards use spell points, and spells like Charm are more gradated. There are scores for ‘Secondary Attributes’ like Stealth and Alertness, derived from Primary Attributes. Armor absorbs damage. There are all kinds of finicky little percentages that improve your attacks and defenses with specific weapons (really just expanding Thief Skills into a more general percentile system). This gives certain classes special bonuses and whatnot; it’s a little too finicky for me, but at 85 pages in total I won’t whine. There is a Potion of Voice Throwing. There are red-horned bulls who fire green bolts of energy. There are Frost Frogs that teleport. There are giants that talk like valley girls (no, really). Dark blue weasels communicate via telepathy in a British accent. There are rabbits that possess the weak-willed. The sample party characters are named Macbeth, Fortinbras, Alvin, Oedipus, and Primion. And the monster names, like Drakra, Garn, Jarg, Madradox, Placeron, Syke, and Xelnarr, all with illustrations (though the green saber-toothed gorilla, the Xexaxax, gets no such love).
In short, Wizards' World looks like D&D made a determined effort to look like the cover of a concept album by a Yes side-project. It reminds me of movies where the characters are playing D&D but nobody who wrote the movie knows what D&D is so they just made up some words based on the AD&D book covers. It feels greater than the sum of its rules-variants, and therefore dependant on those variations (rather than the alterations being merely cosmetic or clever). It accomplishes more in terms of being its own game in 85 pages than other games do in 300. The illustrations look like fun, as in the fun I want to have while playing this game.
Others hopefully will cover the finicky bits, like the Secondary Attributes and +1% to hit with chosen weapon per character level. I won’t right now, though there are bits I like and bits I don’t. Others are better at that stuff, I think.
When I first looked at Wizards' World, my initial thoughts ran to the article on ‘Fantasy Heartbreakers’ by the infamous Ron Edwards. I feel like I (or someone) should say something about that article at length and how it pertains to the OSR. That will come later. Or maybe someone has, and y’all can link me to it.