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Advanced Arcana Volume III $9.99
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Advanced Arcana Volume III
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Advanced Arcana Volume III
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
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!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Arcana Volume III
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2012 04:10:43

This pdf is 130 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 125 pages of content, so let's check this out!


Necromancers of the Northwest-products tend to be hit and miss for, but you may say about the crew whatever you want, there simply is no touching their Advanced Arcana-series. Both Vol I and II belong to the very best spell-books released for any iteration of d20, now can part II keep up wth their quality?


Starting off with aptly-written flavor-ext, we are off to the new concepts - taking a cue from Advanced Arcana II, the book first introduces us to the ideas behind the new spells herein, before providing ample of different options to handle the integration of new spells into an existing campaign and handling spells from a wide array of sources. Multiple way to restrict access to spells are provided, ranging from requiring feats to research and including variant rules that make rare spells harder to counterspell.
Now what made the advanced arcana-series always stand out from its competitors is how the series tends to challenge the boundaries of what spells do: Whether it's the segmented spells or those dependant on the caster's age, the ideas have always hit home for me. Now this pdf also has new concepts of spells - Take Arcane Well-spells.
These spells grant the caster benefits while they have them prepared - spontaneous casters must prepare them as regular non-spontaneous spellcasters in order to gain their benefits. To give you an example, when you have prepared the 2nd level spell "Ardesalf's Identifying Touch", you may detect magic at will as long as you haven't cast the spell. When casting the spell, you get +20 to identifying checks regarding a touched item. A more powerful example would be Coma Veil, which lets you put to sleep foes as a standard action in a 60 ft. radius while prepared, while its cast does much the same, but on an area, making this spell more powerful than the witch's dreaded sleep-hex. Now I can see spells like that work in a high fantasy setting and I really like the notion behind these spells, i.e. rewarding the conservation of arcane resources. BUT. Granting spell-like abilities that duplicate other spells and essentially further conserve spells (no more casting detect magic - yay!) go too far for my conservative tastes. Worse yet, Options like the massive array of sleep-abilities AT WILL are many things, but balanced are they surely not. To ct a long ramble short: I appreciate the idea of Arcane Well-spells, but not their execution in the book - and if "True Strike" at will doesn't raise all balance-bells in your DM-head, I don't know what will... All in all - unfortunately broken.


There are other kinds of new spells in here, though: Metamagic spells that enhance magics you cast via similar ways that metamagic feats do: Call Paragon, for example, enhances the next creature you call to add +8 to all attributes and +4 natural armor, unless its int is >2, in which case Int is not enhanced. bilious invocation also adds a fog cloud that deals con damage to a spell. This type of new spells actually works much better imho and allows for some interesting combinations of arcane prowess. Another new class of spells would be the opportune spells, which can be considered an expansion of the "Quick Spells" from Advanced Arcana II. Essentially, these spells have a primary effect, but also come with the option to be cast as free, swift or immediate actions, with diminished or different effects, for example counterspelling an incoming spell. Some of these spells may be cast when you e.g. deal 10 points of elemental damage, allowing for spell combos. Lethal, yes, but if you e.g. didn't fulfill the reuquirement (dealing e.g. not enough damage), your spell fizzles. I really like this idea and the execution is actually rather apt. I'd love to see more of the like.


The final new type of spell is so-called "Ascension Magic" - i.e. magic you can cast on different levels. Contact the Celestial Hierarchy, for example, can be cast as a spell of any level you have access to and yields different results, improving over the spell levels. Not all of these spells cover all levels, though, some of them actually coming in at e.g. a 2nd level and a 5th level-version, making them essentially multiple spells rolled up into one. Good idea per se to handle spell groups like summon monster etc. and implemented logically. The massive spell-lists cover all the Paizo-classes, including antipaladins.


Regarding the appendices, we get also quite a bit of content: We get multiple variations to be applied to potions,making them e.g. unstable, random, have multiple effects via layered potions etc. The scrolls also get some cool options - devouring scrolls, for example, which allow you to create a blank devouring scroll. Now, when you successfully counterspell a spell and use the scroll, it transforms into a scroll of the countered spell. VERY Cool! Spontaneous casters may now temporarily add spells via Knowledge Scrolls to their spell-lists, while metamagic scrolls add metamagic feats to your casts. Sealing scrolls are also interesting, in that their mere presence foils the inscribed spell(s), making for a cool line of defense in overtly magical settings. We also get a bunch of variant wand-types.


Speaking of magic-heavy settings - we also get sorceror bloodlines of "noble birth", which make sense to me - the power and charisma lend themselves well to becoming leaders of men. A total of 5 such sorceror bloodlines are provided, all with extensive information on the respective families and interesting abilities. Witches may now serve an undead dragon overlord, the avatar of the very Tree of Life, the Leanan sidhe (don't let Dresden know!) or a hedonistic devil. Again, these patrons are cool!


The pdf concludes with full stats of the magic practitioners that contributed to this tome, ranging from CR 10 to 20 - a nice bonus that adds further identity to the spells.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to NNW's 2-column parchment-covered background and the pdf comes with nice full-color stock art. The pdf also comes with a printer-friendly version and excessive bookmarks for ease of navigation.
I love the Advanced Arcana-series, I really do. And much like its predecessor volumes, this book is actually quite innovative and hefty in size, providing a neat bang-for-buck ratio. HOWEVER: In contrast to its predecessors, I can't all-out recommend this book. The mostly terribly broken Arcane Well-spells and e.g. wands that prevent spell-consumption just scream "UNBALANCED" to me and could be considered game-breakers if not handled with the utmost care by the DM. Unfortunately, these gripes bring down what would otherwise be atruly stellar supplement. Mind you, there is still content galore of top quality herein, but you'll have to sift the bad apples out so they won't spoil the bunch. It is only due to the top quality AND quantity of the good pieces of content that I feel still justified in rating this as a good pdf - 4 stars. Just beware of the broken bits! If you're unwilling to do the sifting, detract 1 or even 2 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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