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Advanced Arcana Volume VI
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/31/2016 10:17:12

Opening as usual with a note to a student working his way through the Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft (how long is the course? He's been there six years now, maybe he's doing a PhD!), apparently the poor lad lost his mentor in rather tragic (if unspecified) circumstances and has had to apprentice to somebody else. It also appears that he now has to start assisting with teaching more junior students (all the more likely that he's doing a PhD as you often get a teaching assistant role at that point). Mention is also made of a new area of study, psychic magic, which is touched on within this tome. In a rare formatting error, the two pages of the letter are superimposed on what appears to be the Credits and Table of Contents pages, which fortunately appear in their own right, the Credits before the letter and the Table of Contents on the following page, so you do get to read them!

Next comes the Foreword by the compiler of the tome, Kabaz Anvitz, who is full of excitement at the discovery of an entire new branch of magic, the psychic magic mentioned in the letter. In previous volumes he's explored and questioned conventional magic, and here the study of psychic magic has led him on to examine spell components in detail. The theme of Advanced Arcana I was the 'cost' of a spell, so returning to that approach, can material components - and indeed the caster's gestures and words - also form part of the 'cost' of casting a spell? An interesting thought that leads him to the concept that it might be possible to cast a spell without the required material components by casting it at a higher level (i.e. using up more magical energy) than normal. Or increase the spell's effects by adding extra components... exciting stuff indeed!

We then move on to more detailed game mechanics to support these ideas. Psychic magic was introduced in Paizo Publishing's Occult Adventures rulebook for the Pathfinder RPG, where the concept of thought and emotion components joined the familiar verbal, somatic and material ones. It's all about the drama and excitement of spell-casting, words and gestures and other elements combining to bring about the effect the caster intends. So here we have intricate components - words or gestures so complex that skill checks are needed to get them right - and other components based on energy, alignment, sacrifice or even terrain. There's a lot to play with here! Detailed game mechanics are provided to help you get to grips with the ideas presented here and translate them into spellcasting within your game.

The actual spells themselves are presented first as spell lists by caster type and level, and then in an alphabetical collection of full descriptions of each one. Read, enjoy, imagine... some of these spells, however, are quite dark, evil even - after all, sacrifice of a sentient being merely to power a spell is rightly deemed an evil act, most of the time.

The appendices present new feats designed to aid interaction with the new game mechanics introduced in this book, new archetypes which mix up the way in which different types of spellcaster engage with their magic, a collection of new (sometimes bizarre) familiars, and finally biographic notes and game statistics of some of the legendary spellcasters who aided Kabaz Anvitz in researching this book - along with a further note from him about the process.

What can I say? These books just get better and better, casting new and interesting light on the study and practice of magic. Particularly appealing if you like to take an academic approach to magic, there is plenty for the more practical spellcaster too.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume VI
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Advanced Arcana Volume V
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/30/2016 10:41:22

Opening, as with the other books in this series, with a letter to a now-quite-senior student at the Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft, where he is about to enter his fifth year and now needs to choose a senior mage to whom he will apprentice. In stressing the importance of choosing a mentor wisely, there's an interesting glimpse into mage society - it's quite like the real-world academic society that I inhabit! The author also warns that some of the spells in this volume are 'unruly' if not downright dangerous.

Next we hear from Kabaz Anvitz, putative author of this tome. He states that magic is a tricky subject, that for every answer you get two more questions arise, that even after a lifetime of study there are things that still elude him totally. He then raises the question: is magic in some way alive? An idea that is widely discredited in academic circles yet... he cites research that suggests otherwise. Certainly a matter which could be disputed at length within academia, and perhaps by scholarly mages in your campaign world too.

Next, stepping out of character, the introduction identifies the core question of this volume as being "What would a spell with a mind of its own look like?" Magic is generally represented as either a scientific process, cause and effect studied and understood, or as a primal force that is cajoled and manipulated, with the first being more common in role-playing games as it's easier to write rules for! But a lot of the... well, MAGIC is lost if you get too scientific in your approach. The spells herein are an attempt to regain some of the feeling of wonder about spell-casting, even if they still abide by the rules. There are various different methods employed, including Patron spells (for those whose magic comes from an outside source, clerics and the like), Automatic spells (which go off apparently at random without the caster having much control), Capricious spells with random effects based on a Spellcraft check made when they are cast, Interactive spells which the caster can attempt to modify after he's cast them, and Unsafe spells - which have a tendency to get out of hand. Plenty to conjure with here!

After outlining and explaining the rules mechanics necessary for these new spells to operate within the game and notes on various ways of handling an influx of new spells into your campaign, we move on to spell lists (by caster type) and the detailed spell descriptions of over an hundred new spells. As always, just reading through them spawns plenty of ideas for their use... and they make for fun reading as well.

After the spells, there are four appendices. To start with, some new feats designed to be used by those who would cast the spells presented in this tome. Next come familiar traits, a new mechanic for giving your familiar assorted beneficial, mixed or awkward traits - each has a points value and the sum of your picks must equal zero. Then come notes on sentient spells - neutral outsiders whose abilities and personalities are based on a specific spell, literally a spell come to life. Wierd... but with potential. Finally there are biographical details (and game statistics) for various luminaries of the magical world - who knows, maybe one of these will turn up to discuss the nature of magic with your party wizard.

Overall, another collection of thought-provoking spells, these ones with considerable potential to cause havoc on your tabletop. Enjoy...



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume V
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Advanced Arcana Volume IV
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/29/2016 09:17:27

Like previous volumes in the series, Arcane Arcana IV takes an aspect of magic that you might not even have thought about before and, by presenting a series of innovative spells around that theme, turn whatever you did know - or thought you knew - about it on its head. This time it's all about the concept of 'schools' of magic. The opening letter, addressed to a student who is embarking on his fourth year of study at Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft, points out that it is at this point in his training that he needs to select which (if any) school he will specialise in, and introduces this book as containing spells that challenge the classification of spells by school. The foreword by the compiler of the collection, the academic mage Kabaz Anvitz, is on similar lines complete with references to other (sadly imaginary) works in true academic style.

The introduction explains, out-of-character, a little more. For many players, a spell's school doesn't really matter, it is just a handy classification and based on the sort of effect that spell produces. This book attempts to make schools more meaningful. It includes dual-school spells, whose effects cross the boundaries between schools, alternate-school spells, which have a core action and additional effects based on how they are cast, and alternate-list spells where the effect is mostly the same whoever casts it, but with variations depending on whether the caster is a wizard, a druid, a witch or whatever. There are also more fountain spells (which enable the caster to regain spells already cast as well as having their own effects) and of course other spells that are just here because they sound interesting...

The detailed spell mechanics for the new types of spell are explained, but they make more sense once you've had a look at a few of the spells in question. So, on to the spell lists offered as usual by caster type, followed by the full descriptions of each spell. It's here that you find details of how the dual-school, alternate-list and alternate-school spells actually work in practice. Plenty of interesting ideas here, just reading through them starts ideas flowing...

The first appendix presentes the elite arcanist, a new base class of spell caster who is limited in the number of spells that he can cast, but extremely potent with those that he does know. He has access to any and all spell lists, never mind schools of magic. Fundamentally, they believe that the true path to magical power is the ability to master the best of everything that magic has to offer, rather than simply specializing in one small corner of all that is magical. They focus on understanding the underlying principles behind magic, which allows them to unlock the potential of every spellcasting class, and also gives them the ability to perform a number of stupendous feats of spellcasting, including casting two spells at once, copying spells that they have been targeted with, and casting spells that they don't even know. Yet they are active adventurers, not academics who do not venture out. There are certainly potentials here, although they do tend to want to 'talk shop' with wizards and sorcerers whenever they get the chance - and can be a bit aloof and dismissive of those who do not use magic (or even are not as obsessed by it as they are!).

The second appendix talks about places of power. If you have ever wondered if a mage gets any benefit from being in his own sanctum, this will give you your answer with some optional rules that allow the party wizard - or, of course, some evil fellow the party is opposing - to set up their magically-honed base of operations, based around arcane rituals that bind the location to the mage whose sanctum it is. All manner of equipment and decorative features are available and actually provide game mechanical effects as well. The third appendix looks at spell mastery, providing a way for a spellcaster to specialise in a particular spell and cast it to better effect rather than the standard model where - apart from metamagic effects - a spell is as potent when cast by a lowly first-level wizard as it is by an experience one of far higher level. Good if a mage wishes to develop a 'signature' spell or just demonstrate the benefits of all that hard work spent studying his craft. Examples - using spells from the Pathfinder RPG core rules - are given, but it should not prove too hard to come up with similar effects for your favourite spells if they're not listed here.

The final two appedices deal with wish and miracle spells - possibly the most powerful spells in any spellbook and certainly ones where your imagination can run riot - and biographical details (and full game statistics) for some legendary spellcasters, many of them providers of the spells in this book. They're quite entertaining and bring their magics to life.

So, more thought-provoking ideas and spells to conjure with, continuing the academic approach to magic that fits well with the image of the bookish wizard - more gloriously-imaginative spells to delight any mage and ideas to chat about whenever mages gather together.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume IV
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Advanced Arcana Volume III
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/26/2016 08:36:05

Like the previous two volumes, this one opens with a letter to a student mage from a well-wishing family friend (or is it his step-father... the friend seems close to his mother and there's been mention that his father is dead?), enclosing the gift of a rather tasty spellbook... the rest of the volume being the spellbook itself.

As before, the spells therein are organised around several innovative themes. This time they are 'opportune' spells that can be cast speedily when specific conditions arise, 'arcane well' spells that give access to unlimited use of a minor effect but only until you cast the parent spell, metamagic spells which alter other spells (somewhat akin to metamagic feats) and 'ascension' spells which are more than one level at once. You may well ask how that works...

The foreword by Kabaz Anvitz is even more philosopical than before, speculation on the nature of spells and of magic itself, and again makes for a good read and inspiration for those spellcasters who like to delve deep... or characters who like to muse over the campfire of an evening! Playing with the underpinning theory of ones trade is a constant habit of the academic, and if you like to portray your wizard character thus, it can prove entertaining. (One wizard character of mine described it as 'contemplating the ultimate which-ness of the why'... and the GM presented me with a beautiful mandala for him to gaze at when he did so!) Of course, the author reaches no conclusion after running through several theories, but says that he's presenting spells that challenge existing notions of what spells are and what you can do with them.

This is followed by an out-of-character explanation of the core themes and basically how they work, along with notes of how you might introduce these new spells into your game in a meaningful and effective manner. If you choose to make it more difficult to acquire or learn such 'exotic' spells than it is to access the 'common' magic as presented in the core rule books, some optional game mechanics are presented to make that happen - anything from making them harder to cast to making them harder to locate, needing to be researched from scratch or even acquired via the black market because for some reason or another they are not permitted. If you go for a more plot-based route, one of the appendices has biographical material and stat blocks for some of the mages who invented these spells - your characters can have an opportunity to study with a true master!

After notes on the game mechanics of the novel spell types, we get to the actual spell lists (by every type of spell user) and the alphabetical list of full spell descriptions. Hours of fascinating browsing... and the spell lists are hyperlinked so if you are reading on-screen you can dive straight to the one you want. Throughout, sidebars add interesting commentary and speculation.

Finally, the appendices present a selection of alternate potions, scrolls and wands - such as an aromatic potion that exists in gaseous form rather than a liquid, some new sorcerer bloodlines that are true lineages of arcane power, and some unique witch patrons with real personality! And there are some legendary mages, instrumental in creating some of the spells in this book, all ready for your characters to meet.

All in all, another fascinating delve into the craft of magic, something to keep the most bookish of wizards absorbed!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume III
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Advanced Arcana Volume II
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2016 10:44:18

Following on from the first volume of Advanced Arcana, this one starts with a similar letter to a student who has now completed his first year at Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft. Likewise, the foreword to the book proper reveals that it was written by the same academically-minded mage, Kabaz Anvitz. This time, he says, he wants to concentrate on useful spells rather than those picked to challenge commonly-accepted principles of magical thought... but of course, he's ended up doing that as well. For a start, he explains - in a wonderful mix of in-character theory and game mechanics - just why a wizard 'prepares' spells in advance in terms of how spell energy is stored and used. At least, a rationale for the game mechanic! It's always been something that bugged me - ok, it's the game rule but why does it have to be like that?

This book presents over an hundred new spells ranging from first to ninth level, and the underlying theme of many of them is the idea of spells which can have more than one effect depending on anything from caster whim to the conditions under which it is cast. There are more of the multi-part or 'segmented' spells introduced in the first volume, which require several spell slots and require extended casting time as well. A full explanation of the mechanic is provided in case you do not have access to Advanced Arcana I, however, and then expands it to encompass layered segmented spells and variable segmented spells, which are new to this book. There are also notes on various ways to introduce new spells into your campaign, a process that causes some GMs no end of difficulty whilst others take it in their stride. The problem of introducing new spells to spontaneous casters who are not limited as to how many spells they know just how many they can cast in a day is also covered. These notes should help enable all GMs to handle novel spells with confidence.

Explanations done, the spells are presented first as spell lists for each spell-using class and then alphabetically with full descriptions. An example of a variable segmented spell is Ardesalf's instant biography which inscribes facts about the target being into a blank book or scroll, the more times cast (one to five times) the more you find out about your target... and there are many more innovative and interesting spells to be found here.

The Appendices are well worth reading too. The first contains notes on some of the distinguished mages who devised the spells herein. Perhaps they will turn up in your campaign, or merely be legends young wizards hear about during their training. The second deals with spellbook customisation. Perhaps a wizard would like a fancy binding or wants to write his spells on something other than paper, parchment or vellum... here are some ideas, their costs and their properties. Oh, and don't forget the ink... Other appendices deal with really wierd familiars (how about a bookworm?), alternate arcane bonds and exotic spell components - if you use one of these along with whatever's required for the spell you are casting, you may get some fascinating additional effects.

This is the sort of book that makes you wish magic were real... but inasmuch as it is within your game, it makes an excellent addition to magical knowledge!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume II
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Advanced Arcana
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2016 11:39:54

How does magical education work in your game? There's quite a trend within Pathfinder RPG product to suggest that you can go to school to study magic, just as you or I in the real world can take classes in history or computer science... a reasonable assumption in a setting where magic is part of everyday life. This book takes this view, opening with a note penned to a newly-accepted student by a family friend, an older mage who wishes him well. This explains the purpose of the work, a collection of spells that should prove useful to any aspiring mage. Three specialist groups of spells are mentioned: 'quick' spells which are lesser-powered versions of spells that can be cast fast in an emergency, spells which refresh the mind and enable the re-casting of spells already used for the day, and 'segmented' spells that occupy several slots rather than one, but allow pretty amazing things to be done.

Next are some delightful philosophical thoughts by the original author of the book, clearly someone who takes magic seriously and doesn't view it merely as a list of actions for use when brawling! Much of this skilfully blends an in-character approach with recognition of the underlying game mechanics... as example, "According to the ancient sage Drawzi of Astocthes. the cost of a spell is measured in mental energy, with spells being classified in nine tiers based on the amount of energy the spell consumes when cast", which is prehaps the most delightful way of describing that spells come in levels and the higher level your character is, the higher level spells he can cast that I have read! It's a very academic approach, some readers may find it a bit heavy going, but if you want to play a spell-caster who takes a studious approach to his magic it will give you some wonderful ideas to throw around in casual conversation to bemuse your colleagues who swing swords or pick locks for a living.

Following an outstanding illustration of a 'Young Mage' lounging with a book in his hand, a couple of sidebars explain the mechanical implications of segmented spells, showing how they play out, and notes on how best to incorporate the spells from this book into your game. A wizard wishing to buy his own copy of Advanced Arcana needs to come up with 25,000 gp, for example!

Now getting down to business, spell lists are followed by full write-ups of each new spell. There are lists of spells for alchemists, bards, clerics, druids, inquisitors, paladins, rangers, sorcerers/wizards, summoners, and witches. The full spell descriptions are presented in standard format, and merely reading through them conjures up many an idea for using them to effect...

As example of the novel concept of the segmented spell, have you ever wondered how places consecrated to a particular deity have all those cool effects associated with them? Perhaps high-level clerics devoted to that deity spent a lot of time and money casting holy presence there: it builds up over six castings of a spell that takes four hours and material components of incense and oils costing 1,500 gp (that's for each of the six castings, mind you) but provides several effects that make it clear that this is indeed a holy place. Even better, you can customise these effects from a list so that they best reflect the interests and concerns of the deity in question.

Then Appendix 1: On the Assembly of this Tome contains a delightful account of the life and times of Kabaz Anvitz, the ostensible author of this spell book. Excellently written and entertaining, it continues the 'academic' theme of his introduction - and demonstrates clearly how being a bookish and scholarly mage can provide plenty scope for adventure! Other appendices present new clerical domains and sorcerer bloodlines, as well as what are termed focussed wizard schools. These allow a wizard to develop a narrower speciality in their magic than the standard schools. Oh, and there are some new familiars tucked away here, if you fancy something a bit exotic - an animated object, perhaps, or a poison frog. Or maybe you'd rather have a rabbit familiar.

The whole book is a delight, with thoughtful spells, an endearing academic approach to the study of magic, and some fantastic illustrations. Just the thing to give to an aspiring mage...



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana
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A Necromancer's Grimoire: Steeds and Stallions
by Peter C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/08/2016 19:21:43

I picked this up because the price point was right and I am interested in portraying horses in my Pathfinder campaign. This PDF is a solid piece of work. The look is excellent. All of the sections, including detailed information on what horses are like and how to care for them, don't have one bit of wasted text.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Necromancer's Grimoire: Steeds and Stallions
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Weekly Wonders - Villainous Archetypes Volume II
by Björn A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2016 12:45:16

Villainous Archetypes: Vol. II is the latest entry in Necromancers of the Northwest's Weekly Wonders series. As you may guess from the titles, it's about archetypes usable for evil characters, but is equally usable for GMs to create evil NPCs. It's an 8-page PDF with 4 pages of actual content (the rest is front and back cover, credits and license stuff) which contains 5 archetypes.

The first one being the Brutal Oppressor, a barbarian archetype. With this one, you get to Swap Trap sense against Bully, which gives you a real nice use out of your Intimidate class skill. Which you can further improve with the Gory Display rage power which gives you an additional bonus on Intimidate with each successful critical hit. The other rage powers presented are Grab by the throat, which is more useful for the grappling barbarian, and Stay Down, which gives you an increasing damage bonus against prone opponents. And then there's Bloodlust, a class ability replacing Tireless Rage, which potentially increases the number of rounds the barbarian can rage per day.

The second is the Elemental Defiler, a nice nod to the Dark Sun defiler of old and an archetype for the Kineticist. This archetype replaces Internal Buffer by Drain Energy, ability that basically does the same but is a bit more versatile, because you can use it, when you need it, and that you don't need to accept burn to fill your buffer. On the other hand, you must use the won energy directly in the same round and the action provokes AoOs. And at Level 19, Drain Creature replaces Metakinetic Master and allows you to ignore burn according to the points of Constitution damage your opponent suffers.

The Extortioner is an Investigator archetype prone to blackmail his victims with the secrets he finds out. The Extortioner gets the Secret Finder class ability which improves and expands his trapfinding skill while losing his 3rd level investigator talent. Guilt Sense us a quite intriguing class ability which replaces boring trap sense. At the start, the extortioner gets a bonus on Sense Motive checks. At higher levels he also can cast detect thoughts as a spell-like ability, and even later on, he can force his victims to spill out secrets they are ashamed about. At fourth level, the extortioner replaces his swift alchemy class ability with Lingering Threat which improves upon the use of his Intimitade skill.

It seems as if the designers of this archetype felt it being a bit too strong, though, so they added Stunted Inspiration, which subtracts 1 point of Inspiration from the Extortioners inspiration pool. Seems more of a cosmetic change because in standard games, he might not really need all those inspiration points anyway.

The next one is the Villainous Bloodline for the sorcerer. Without going too much in detail, I generally like the conceptual idea, though the mechanics make it too easy to use it with actually good aligned characters. Ok, to inflict damage while simultaneously healing yourself (as the first level bloodline power Draining Touch allows) may not sound very goodish. And to paralyze your opponents and use them for protection (Hostage Taker at level 15) may also not be a sign for a true hero (though the problem is with the protection part and you don't need to do this). On the other hand, neither Getaway (which allows you to escape via dimension door from narrow situations) nor the capstone ability Master of Deception are particularly evil in design and might come in handy for good-aligned characters as well. And then there's Villaneous Defenses, which might be much more powerful when used by good-aligned characters than by true villains. Reason being that you get DR/good, which might not be as efficient for a villain against a heroic group of adventurers, but can really help the Hero when fighting evil opponents. This all said: you surely can use this with evil characters (especially when used in adventures where the opponents might even more evil), so it doesn't actually goes against the designers' promise.

Last but not least, we have the Eldritch Slavemaster. This Summoner archetype forces his Eidolon(s) into his service rather than building a link to them. Which may have consequences in case he loses control over the summoned eidolon according to Conjurer's Leash the replacement of 1st level's Life Link. As this ability also comes with some restrictions regarding the distance allowed between summoner and eidolon, the designers added Slavedriver, an ability that let's the eidolon cause more damage with successful hits, but also causes damage to the eidolon itself. At 4th level Shield Ally is replaced by Slave Shield. This ability lets the summoner decrease any hit point damage he suffers, but causes the eidolon to suffer twice the damage that its' slavemaster avoids. At 12th Level, Greater Slave Shield decreases the damage the Eidolon suffers this way. At 14th level, Drain Summoned Monster (self-explaining) replaces Life Bond and at 16th level, Explosive Summons replaces Merge Forms and allows the Summoner to use his summoned monsters as living bombs. And at level 20, Slave Army replaces Twin Eidolon and allows the slavemaster tohave summoned monsters and eidolon simultaneously, He can even have more than one summon monster or Gate spell active.

Summary: From 4 out of 5, the only archetype I would consider to be outright evil is the Eldritch Slavemaster. The other 4 can be surely used by evil, but also by non-evil characters. I mention this because I'm on of those GMs who normally not allows evil characters at his table but would probably allow those archetypes when set into the fitting context. But that's not the important part. The important part is that you can create great evil PCs with them, and you can also use them to create interesting NPCs for your PCs to oppose. So the product does what it says, and it is doing it (in my opinion) without arising balance issues. I also didn't stumble about glaring editorial issues. Meaning that I didn't find anything which lets me substract points from the end note (maybe a half star for my issues with the Villainous bloodline sorcerer, but that I'd be inclined to round up).

So, 5 stars out of 5 it is.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weekly Wonders - Villainous Archetypes Volume II
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Weekly Wonders - Coin Magic
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/30/2015 07:22:46

Weekly Wonders: Coin Magic provides the magic of money, or at least coins. While a few of the spells are too tied to game mechanics for my tastes there are some good ideas here but also one that could be abused by a clever player (or DM). Good inspiration but be careful in your use of the spells contained within.

Weekly Wonders: Coin Magic is a selection of fifteen new coin-based spells for Pathfinder. Each spell includes just a description, no framing fiction, no colorful descriptions, just the needed game information for each spell.

The spells run from zero-level cantrips (two) to ninth-level (three of these) and most levels in between. They range from way to manipulate coins to ways to turn them into traps or scrying devices or even as a place to store one’s soul. There is even a spell that creates coins out of thin air, though at great cost in time and effort.

A couple of the spells directly reference game mechanics, in the cost of spell components and the price of magic items, which I find infringe on my suspension of disbelief. While one of the coin trap spells seems specifically designed to deny characters the rewards that they have earned which would not make the DM who used it any friends. While the lack of support material in the form of feats, archetypes or items combined with the lack of colorful spell description make this feel like a very bare-bones product. Still, some interesting ideas here that deserve to be adapted and used as the magic of money is a very under-explored area.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Weekly Wonders - Coin Magic
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Exotic Encounters: Compendium
by William W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2015 11:02:33

I was looking to liven up some traditional monster encounters in my campaign. I wanted to come up with some interesting encounters to catch my players off guard, sure I could always pull in a brand new monsters, but I thought it would be more fun to go with some more traditional monsters and give them a twist just to keep the players on their toes. This book fits the bill perfectly. A nice variety of known "regular" monsters but with some interesting twists and variations to them. Highly recommended



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Exotic Encounters: Compendium
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Exotic Encounters: Compendium
by Stipe K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/22/2015 06:30:43

This is a compilation of variant monsters with base creatures chosen from the first bestiary. Each creature has three variants, usually one weaker and two stronger versions. Beasts are well made, nothing too spectacular, but also nothing bad that stands out. There are no pictures, but since these are variants of existing monsters they are not that necessary. I really like this book since I became too busy to apply templates to tweak monsters, and these offer variety if you need it when using monsters. I wish I had this book, Monster Codex and Raging Swan's Tribes Most Foul when I ran my orc campaign, it would make my job so much easier.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Blackshire Mercenary Company
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/05/2014 06:56:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 28 pages of content, so let's check these mercenaries out!

After an introduction to the mercenary company and some adventure outlines/plot hooks, we get information on hiring the mercenaries for" active" or "passive" duties (i.e. guard duty vs. adventuring/preventing assassinations) as well as information to joining the Blackshire Mercenaries, improving one's standing in the guild as well as how jobs are granted to soldiers and spending influence in the guild. I.e. we actually get tables and information on how to both gain influence and on how to spend it/what benefits you can get in the guild.

So what is the guild and how does it work? In a work of dire rat infestations, marauding wyvern and vicious orc press gangs, adventurers always can find work. What, however, if none of these specialists are available? What if one has already been betrayed by powerful adventurers and thus rather want specialists who may ask for a steep price, but adhere to professional work ethics? That's what the Blackshire Company is for. Driven by pragmatism and a desire to earn money and get the job done rather than adhere to chivalrous codes of honor and conduct, they are hardened, grizzled and yet uncompromising problem-solvers. Depending on the level of the member and the amount of influence one has, specific benefits are available, lending using the guild towards e.g. prolonged campaigns with PCs getting ranks in the guild.

The guild also gets its own Prestige Class (to join, you of course have to have sufficient influence with the guild), the Blackshire Exemplar. The 10-level-PrC gets d10, 2+Int skills per levels, a good BAB-progression, a medium fort-save and centers around professionalism-abilities like immunity to fear and can learn from a list of 13 special guild maneuvers. The guild maneuvers are powerful, but adequately represent the fighting style of the guild. Their capstone-ability lets them make a full attack as a standard action, though. OUCH. This ability, even for a capstone-ability feels rather powerful and lends itself to potential abuse. They also come with a lore-section.

Next up in the book are the sample NPCs: The section contains three dwarven brothers that learned to expertly coordinate their effort, an example of an evil as well as an example of a good chapter-head, a duelist-style fighter, a low-level thug and a legend among the companies.

-Dennai Battleshield (Dwarf Fighter 7/ Stalwart Defender 2) -Dorbin Battleshield (Dwarf Fighter 7) -Dragor Battleshield (Dwarf Fighter 7) -Helgar "the Butcher" Bailey (Human Fighter 10) -Percival Callahan (Human Paladin 10) -Rolando (Human fighter 7/ranger 6/blackshire exemplar 4) -Sophia Ironblade (Fighter 10) -Tolbin Denny (Rogue 4)

Conclusion: The organization per se is very well presented - you can easily imagine this very capitalistic and professional approach to being mercenaries. The company can serve as anything you'd like - as foils for the PCs, as allies, as a home away from home or as all of the above. Presentation of the benefits and tracking rank in the guild rock and are detailed enough to be of use even to the most novice of DMs. The company can easily be dropped in into just about ANY campaign and is sufficiently modular. I'll go even so far as to propose that they make a nice elite-order in rather low-magic settings. However, there are also some downsides to this file: While I like the Blackshire Exemplar class, I think that the capstone ability is too strong and I would have loved to see more guild techniques. The NPCs, while well-designed and with some APG-support, did not necessarily impress me that much - on the one side, they may be well-crafted, but somehow they felt a bit unspecific and don't come with their rank specified in the guild. I also would have loved to see stats for the 3 leaders of the guild. Another problem is, that while the company is easy to implement and is well and extensively detailed, but it somehow lacks iconic powers and also feels generic in the negative sense. The short write-up of the Blackblade mercenary organization from RiP' s "Elspeth Blackblade" somehow felt more compelling to me. Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any mistakes. Layout is fine, too, although it adheres to the used-parchment-look of NWN, thus being not too printer-friendly. The mostly public domain art fits the topic. Formatting is nice, there is only one glitch of a line in the last stat-block - half of one line is hidden beneath another line. The pdf is extensively bookmarked.

My final verdict for this pdf will take the low price and the amount of content into account. Due to the formatting glitch and the minor problems I encountered, I'd usually settle for 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3. However, I couldn't name a single "Guild"-book apart from this one and it is well-crafted for a VERY low price. Thus, I'll round my final verdict up to 4 - it's good to see a fully-detailed and professionally presented guild out there, even if it is a rather generic one. I hope to see more.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Blackshire Mercenary Company
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Mythic Mastery - Mythic Mummies
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/28/2014 12:22:05

Diving straight in, we first meet the Dry Mummy. This is a mummified - or desiccated - animated corpse, rather than the bandage-trailing one familiar from countless movies, but they're no less friendly. For a start, they can desiccate YOU if they get too close! Apparently most are created by accident rather than by intent, from someone who has died in the right conditions to dry out their mortal remains in this manner. Interestingly, it is said that most arise from people who die of thirst in deserts rather than those killed by violence... and one really doesn't want to speculate what a necromancer might do if he wants to make one!

Next up is his mythic cousin, the Mythic Dry Mummy. Needless to say, they are even nastier than the regular sort, with the particularly nasty ability of being able to turn anyone they kill into a Dry Mummy.

Then there comes the Pitch Mummy and a Mythic Pitch Mummy. These ones do come in bandages, but dripping and oozing a foul black substance, thought to be a by-product of the mummification process as practiced by certain cults who use a special magical black tar rather than ordinary pitch as a preservative. The Mythic ones again have the ability to create Pitch Mummies, but this time by touch alone, they don't have to kill their victim.

Four really scary mummy variants to locate in desert tombs and other suitable places.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Mastery - Mythic Mummies
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A Necromancer's Grimoire: The Art of Traps
by Micah B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2014 09:13:56

Uncreative, offers nothing you could not find online. The traps are your typical ones I didn't find a single one which intrigued me. Not worth the cost.



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
A Necromancer's Grimoire: The Art of Traps
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Mythic Mastery - Mythic Efreeti
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/17/2014 09:56:38

You might think that a regular efreeti is a pretty mythic fellow, but once you read through these notes it becomes clear that a true mythic efreeti is even more potent.

Sharing common characteristics with their regular brethren, mythic efreet have additional powers most notable of which is the ability to magically shackle a humanoid creature, enslaving them. A full stat block and notes on their special abilities are provided along with comprehensive notes about how mythic efreet fit into the hierarchy on the Plane of Fire.

This explains how mythic efreet gain 'mythic' status... by interacting with us 'lesser' creatures on the Material Plane! An efreeti who grants too many wishes and warps the fabric of the multiverse enough begins to gain mythic powers.

The rest of the work contains several rituals for summoning mythic efreet. The usual planar binding spells don't work on mythic genies, so other means must be employed. In some ways these rituals are easier than regular summonings, but they are also more risky and the unwary may find themselves unprotected when the summoned efreeti - likely to be in a bad mood - pops out in front of them!

Some interesting twists to throw into run-of-the-mill genie interactions here.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Mastery - Mythic Efreeti
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