First things first, I should start with a disclaimer:
Magic bores me to death. I suppose that which attracts me in fantasy is what could have been or maybe the what if.
Magic though, at least the way I've seen it done in most books and games, just plain bugs me, in particular when conbined with historical stasis.
Sometimes I'm surprised I'm not that much of a fan of science fiction either, considering it usually handles these aspects much better than fantasy.
This little rant only means that I'm reading the Book of Air, aka the magic chapter, and, well, it feels like work, and not just any kind of work, but the mind-numbing, wage-slave kind of work.
Almost at least...
Like the previous chapters it begins with a small piece of fiction. Again, utterly forgettable.
It moves on to religion. A lot of what's in this section as been superseded by changes in the setting, and it's not very deep to begin with, but the only thing that annoyed me was when we are told that because spellcasting looks like maho peasants fear shugenja...
Right, so religious ritual looks like ilegal sorcery, which makes priests feared, but still very important because of their social role.
If you thought that phrase makes no sense, that's no coincidence. Mind you that they started off as if shugenja were scholars, which would make this distinction much more sensible.
One thing that was changed, to my pity, is that in 1st Edition, shugenja were clearly taught rather than having innate ability. This made their religious nature far more believable without sacrificing any other interpretation.
Following this overview we get the spellcasting mechanics proper and the spell list which finishes the chapter.
The first thing I noticed is that I really liked the streamlining that was made in 2nd Edition.
That's right, I'm praising 2nd Ed. for something.
The main problem, for me, and this is something I've already mentioned about my personal preferences in 4th Edition, is that Magic is not very transparent, particularly when compared with the rest of the system. There are a lot of fidly bits here, with mastery level being a major culprit.
At this point I'm remembered that 1st Edition magic was overpowered, but I've got to wonder if they noticed one small detail:
In first Edition rest only recovered 1 slot per element. It could take many days to recovel all spell slots.
Now, this is a rule that I don't like, but I would like to know if those thinking Magic was too powerful took this into account, because it makes spellcasting a much bigger trade-off.
One thing that might also escape notice is that alot of these spells were lifted directly from the Bushido RPG. This is something about which I have mixed feelings. A problem I sometimes have with RPGs, is that they become somewhat self-referential. Take the proliferation of elves and dwarves just because Tolkien did it, but as codified by D&D (which means they are not much like Tolkien). Something appears somewhere, and all of the sudden it appears everywhere...
This is not necessarily bad, there is something to be said about familiarity, and I'm certainly not the type that defends the mantra that new or different is always better, but at times it feels just fucking lazy and unimaginative how these thing get repeated, and in this case they don't even credit any kind of inspiration from the original.
Curiously, I found no traces of D&D, the usual suspect, being copied...