An Endzeitgeist.com review
So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!
One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. The pdf predates the ACG and OA, and as such, I will not complain about a lack of representation of the classes from these books in the spell-lists.
Anyways, this pdf is 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 /2 page blank, leaving us with 3.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, we begin with a couple of rules-addendums for the purpose of this pdf regarding spellcasting. The book introduces a so-called “Source” – this is basically the type of magic and may include divine, arcane, etc.; The pdf mentions other sources as well, a few of which I haven’t seen so far. Not sure we needed that term. “Flow” denotes whether a spellcaster’s casting is spontaneous or prepared. Considering the evolution of the game, this dichotomy may not hold up so well in all circumstances. It also begs the question where e.g. spontaneous conversion and the like fit in here. This can be somewhat problematic once we evolve to the concept of “counterflow” – this denotes sharing a source, but not a flow: E.g. spontaneous vs. prepared arcane spellcasters.
The pdf then goes on to introduce the [Dual-Souled] subtype, which denotes a acreature bound to the life-force of another creature. This nets a +2 racial bonus to saves versus necromancy spells (but RAW, not versus such effects) and the creature may be considered its original type and that of the bound soul’s form. All right, that is fine and dandy…but how does this interact with spells and effects that have different benefits, based on type? Let’s say Xailaius the elf is dual-souled with an orc and ventures into a desolate battlefield of yore that buffs orcs and debuffs elves, what happens? The better result, the worse, both? This needs some clarification. When failing a save versus a death effect, dual-souled creatures can opt to lose the subtype instead of dying, acting as a failsafe extra life of sorts.
Okay, we’ll begin with three bond of magic spells. The lesser one has a Close range and ties two allied spellcasters together; it is cast as a swift action and clocks in at level 1. Both caster and ally may only cast with the permission of the other character, but gain +1 to CL checks. If a partner expends a standard action, the ally instead gains +2 to CL-checks and +1 to the DC of spells cast that round. The greater version targets 1 + 1/per 3 caster levels targets instead and clocks in at 5th level. Also at 5th level, we get the parasitic bond of magic, which only targets one creature, but lets the caster compel the target to grant this boost. Such a compelled boost does allow for a second save, though. I have a few issues with these spells. They should imho only be able to target allies. Otherwise, it’s save or suck for enemy casters – and mutual lockdown isn’t fun for the player of the caster either. The parasitic bond makes for a cool take on the master/apprentice-concept regarding black arts, but the compelling of boost should be classified as an enchantment (compulsion) effect to properly account for immunities/interactions. This would be as well a place as any to note that, strangely, none of the spells herein are available for the witch.
Counterflow negation targets another caster with the other spellcasting tradition and has a Close range, a Will save to negate and clocks in at 3rd level. It results in a mutual lockdown of casters. Inverse consumption clocks in at 5th level and is a 10-minute ritual that is permanent and targets 2 counterflow spellcasters, one of which must be disabled or dying. (Considering the casting time, dying is unlikely.) Upon completion, the disabled or dying caster perishes (and may not be brought back by any means) and the survivor gets the dual-souled subtype. The survivor also gets spells added from the deceased caster, but the rules-language here is slightly wonky – functional, mind you, but yeah. Interesting: Casting this multiple times is an evil act, as stuffing too many souls into you is really bad news for all souls. I am a bit confused whether this means that you could become triple-souled, or whether the benefits of subsequent castings only apply to spells gained. While the spell is permanent, I am also not sure if losing the Dual-Souled subtype ends the spell or not. If so, are the spells retained? Can the character cast it again without it being evil?
Mystic rebirth clocks in at 5th level for druids, 6th for inquis and oracles and also has a 10 minutes casting time. It can only be cast once on a creature and basically is an instant retrain from prepared to spontaneous caster and vice-versa – wizards become sorcerers, clerics become oracles, etc. Now I get the intent here, but the spell does not allow for attribute re-assignment, which means that the new class will probably suck. It also reduces these classes to spellcasting, which can be an issue. Where do you get a bloodline from? Oracles don’t have to have their deity’s alignment, having the option to be unwilling prophets, etc. Not a fan.
There also are two Zenith surge spells, with the lesser clocking in at level 5. This one targets a prepared spellcaster and allows them to change a prepared spell of 4th level or lower to cast a known spell of the same level or lower from the spell-list. The greater version is, oddly, available for oracle and sorcerer 8 as well as bard 8. Did I miss something there? ;) Anyways, it pretty much works like the lesser version, but goes up to spell level 7. I do like the exclusivity of these spells for sorcs and oracles, but as a whole, I don’t think prepared casters needed the flexibility these offer.
Finally, there would be the lesser and greater inverse versions of these, for prepared casters only, he 5th and 8th level Zenith web spells. These allow spontaneous casters to mimic spells successfully observed via Spellcraft (not capitalized properly), provided they show up on their spell list, by expending an appropriate spell slot. Thresholds are 4th and 7th spell-level, respectively.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are okay; on a rules-language level, the pdf manages to depict complex concepts, but suffers from the base chassis not being perfect. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no interior artwork apart from the cover. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Christen N. Sowards’ Transcendent 10-series had surprised me with how well it held up to the test of time; this can, alas, not be said about this pdf. The base concepts used by the spells are per se interesting, but can become problematic with the spellcasting modifications that have been released since the pdf’s release. Additionally, the spells, while not bad per se, have a few rough edges that make them less appealing, with quite a few of them boiling down to cheesy mutual casting lockdowns. Unlike the other T10-files I’ve covered so far, I did not find myself liking any of the spells herein particularly. There is some potential here, but the implementation of the spells requires more work than what I’d expect. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.