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The Wizards and the Wastes’ second edition opens an endless sea of magic - at a cost

Top-shelf thaumaturgy.

What’s an acceptable price for power? If one could stop an oncoming flood, ward a toddler from death or summon a crop-saving storm, would such magic be worth a few years of one’s life? What about memories of long-dead family members or a body nobody would call human? This is the system underpinning The Wizards and the Wastes, a tabletop RPG of bargains and agreements.

Inspired by works such as Bloodborne, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Howl’s Moving Castle - itself adapted from Diana Wynne Jones’ novel - The Wizards and the Wastes positions players as mages working for the state and dispatched to a far-flung village or town to work their awesome abilities for the good of its inhabitants and those in power.

But that magic comes at a cost, and every weaving of power must first be negotiated between the wizard and their Spell Source, navigating a bargain where anything is fair game in balancing the scales. Vitality, memories, or perhaps a couple of fingers can work a cantrip, but something closer to miracles might take more than one player can bring to bear. Luckily, wizards can work in tandem to share the load, sacrificing some of their own finite resources - and humanity - for the good of the work.

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Players in The Wizards and the Wastes won’t pull their spells from a formatted table but will instead enlist the aid of a real-world book, poetry collection, painting or other creative work. Circling different passages or stanzas, images, colours or comic panels will define the shape and effect of a spell, as well as set a cost for its realization. A primary part of being a good haggler is knowing not to bite off more than one can chew.

Designed by John Battle - known online as Batts and the creator of .Dungeon - The Wizards and The Wastes first launched in 2020 with a very limited print run alongside a digital edition. According to Batts’s blog, they planned to bring the game to Kickstarter to fund an extended print run and second edition pass at the rules, which would include expansions on nearly every aspect of the game and high-quality hardcover production. Then, the popular crowdfunding platform announced the now-notorious plans to invest in blockchain technology.

“I believed that, without kickstarter, perhaps my books would be nothing to people. Perhaps I had been misguided. I worried that underneath it all, I wasn't ‘good’ or ‘worth it,’” Batts wrote in their blog. “Beyond those feelings though, I knew I had to stop. I knew that I could not use Kickstarter anymore.”

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They decided to run the crowdfunding for the second edition of the game on their website, leveraging their own promotion and word-of-mouth against the inherent visibility Kickstarter provides independent designers - and a primary reason why leaving the platform can be a fraught decision. Their hope was to reach 100% funding by the end of January in an all-or-nothing pitch, but backers managed to push past that goal within days - the project is currently sitting at 170% funding.

That campaign will continue until February, and backers can pre-order a physical or digital edition of The Wizards and the Wastes for $40 (£29) and $15 (£11), respectively. Physical books will come with a PDF version, and Batts has conservatively estimated shipping will take place in June or July 2022.

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