This pdf is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 27 pages of content, so let's check this out!
The third installment of Dreadfox Games’ Grimoire-series deals exclusively with illusion-spells, perhaps one of the toughest schools to design for with regards to balance, so what exactly can we expect from the pages of this pdf? After about 7 pages of spell-lists for all the classes, the pdf jumps right at the content. The very first spell, “Adele’s Corridor” is the very first rather interesting one – it forces the victim to treat everything as if it was further away, meaning that each round, until a certain distance is covered, the victim will run in place. Interesting control-spell! The two “Arcane Pantomime”-spells enable you to cast shadow-duplicates of arcane enchantment, evocation or illusion spells you have just witnessed being cast, though spells with a focus, costs and long casting checks are rather hard to mimic and very easy to disbelieve. While there is some potential overlap with the “Shadow Evocation”-spells here, the added schools and the improved amount of “real” parts as well as the requirement to have an original spell cast to mimic it, make this a valid step between the regular and the greater shadow evocations, while “Greater Arcane Pantomime” can be considered the new apex of shadow-duplicated spells.
“Conceal Passage” would be another interesting spell – it allows you to conceal a door, window etc. and make it look like e.g. a continuation of the wall. A great idea per se (it’s also permanent), but I think that the [figment]-descriptor is a bit stretched here. That’s meta, though – what’s more problematic for me: The spell fails to specify which size the passage may have. Could one e.g. conceal the entry to a vast cave in a mountain that leads to a dragon’s hoard? Could a vampire conceal a tiny hole/crack leading to his crypt and get through it in gaseous form? A hole less than an inch wide would be hard to find indeed. Some clarifications regarding maximum/minimum size would help…
One of the smartest spells herein is “Cordial Invitation” - essentially, the spell requires you to trick the victim into accepting your invitation. If they do, they are shut into a temporal stasis with a dream – you have full control over said dream and can control everything but the dreaming creature’s actions. This is AWESOME on so many levels: All PCs could be trapped, trying to escape. And then there’s the potential for awesome fey-stories and high-level investigations. This spell is narrative gold and it’s not alone among the ones herein: There are spells to eliminate a subject’s sense of smell or taste and also a slew of them that deal with haunting sleeping characters, potentially granting them bonuses or penalties. Oh, and you can finally disguise your eidolon as a human, making summoners less obvious – a must-have in rather paranoid, xenophobic or downright low-magic settings.
Summoners also get their due with some neat exclusive spells: Want to call a shadow duplicate of a recently vanquished eidolon or conjuration (creation, calling, summoning)-spell? There are spells to do so herein! One of my favorites would be “Double Voice” – this spell enables you to cast it as a part of a normal conjuration and choose between two layers of communication: The one you want foes to hear and a secret, second layer of communication to e.g. soothe a hostage or make plans for an assault while talking to you foes. Once again, this spell is narrative and roleplaying GOLD.
There are also some less tricky, more straight-forward iconic spells – there’s a e.g. a fascinating pattern that may swallow you whole, a spell that entraps its victims in a hard to escape (potentially an adventure in and of itself) in a special druid’s grove and there’s a truly interesting take on faith: “Testament of Faith” grants massive bonuses to the respective characters – but only if they (and their players!) unquestionably believe it. Looking up the spell etc. makes the casting less potent or even void! Now if that’s not interesting!
Shadow-spell-fans should also know about the extremely potent “Darkwater Mere”, a truly lethal sea of shadow that drowns its victims and which can come with a dread shadow sea serpent. Or would you rather care for a hydra springing from shadow? The “Shadow Martyr”-spell, on the other hand, is more problematic: The illusion can take negative conditions from your PCs and the list is quite neat, as is the idea. From the text, though, it’s not entirely clear whether the martyr can take only one instance of a certain debilitating condition per casting or per round. If the martyr has already cured the fatigued condition once, can he cure it again if the condition is reimposed in a subsequent round while the spell is still in effect?
The pdf also contains spells for secret “good” and “evil” scripts and the ability for the magus to create up to two shadowy duplicates that share your attacks, making you active in quite literally multiple places at once, but at potential risk, as you take a part of the duplicate’s damage.
The pdf closes with stats for two shadow-monsters conjurable with spells found herein, their quasi-real nature already fractured into their stats.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – from inconsistencies between e.g. the correct Umlaut in “DoppelgÄnger” to omitting it for the bastardized “DoppelgAnger” to return to it, up to some other, minor glitches, I encountered quite a few, but none that truly impeded my enjoyment of this pdf. Layout adheres to Dreadfox Games’ b/w-2-column standard and provides no pieces of artwork. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. Grimoire Illusionatus is by far my favorite installment of the series so far – the spells are smart, clever, bring a whole lot of great new options to the table and often ooze iconicity. In fact, so much so, that for the first time in quite a while, I feel almost prompted to give a spell-book the full 5 stars… were it not for some minor inconsistencies and things about spells, that, as written in this pdf, just are not as clear as they ought to be. While the amount of cool spells surpasses the one of those with minor problems, I still feel like a minor revision and some clarifications would greatly enhance this collection of spells. In fact, I was severely tempted to go 5 stars nevertheless, but comparing the amount of content to similar pdfs, I just couldn’t. Nevertheless, this pdf offers some spells that not only reward clever players, but also open a up a whole bunch of cool adventure ideas. Thus, I’ll remain with a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform. If you can live with the hick-ups I mentioned, you’ll like this pdf.