Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The article presents four "long-lost magical manuals" -- the tomes of powerful and famous magic-users, each of which is unique in some way. All four books are given a name, a description, and a history in addition to a list of their contents. Every one of these entries made these librams much more interesting than just a simple catalog of, say, the spells they contained or the magical effect they conferred upon their reader. Thus, we learn that the eponymous author of Mhzentul's Runes was slain at the Battle of the River Rising and that Nchaser's Eiyromancia contains not one but two heretofore unknown spells.
Greenwood's articles always impressed me with their feigned depth. That is, they seemed to be part of a rich and complex setting, whose every little nook and cranny had been detailed beforehand so that he could just pluck them from his mind and present them whenever required to do so. As I learned later, this is a parlor trick, one that I learned to perform in time, too, but it doesn't make me any less fond of "Pages from the Mages" or its later sequels. In the span of comparatively little space, Greenwood provided readers with not only some new magical items to insert into their own games but models for how to make almost any magic item a locus of information about a campaign setting and, by extension, an inspiration for adventure.