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Secrets of Necromancy V1.1 $1.50
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Secrets of Necromancy V1.1
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Secrets of Necromancy V1.1
Publisher: Zodiac Gods Publishing
by Kevin S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/13/2009 09:04:49

My son has been itching to play a necromancer since the introduction of 4e, so he and I were particularly interested in this product when it was released. However, we were both profoundly disappointed after reading the material. Although we never found the content particularly intriguing, there are some powers and "fluff text" that are usable in a campaign. However, in many instances, we simply found "Secrets of Necromancy" to be poorly written and ill-conceived in regard to both game mechanics and its overall presentation. Some modification to these powers can remedy most of the issues.

Unfortunately, the "breaking point" for my son and me was the inclusion of artwork that perpetuates the objectification and culture of violence against women. Images of half-naked women, even 'fantasy' women, being threatened with knives is an old and outdated cliche that needs to be eliminated from the "gaming culture." It reinforces the paradigm of the marginalization of women that is already an over-powering force in the gaming community, let alone society at large. This image had no direct tie to the content of the book and did nothing to add to the aesthetic value of the product. Instead, it only serves to represent an archaic and damaging patriarchal ideology that needs to be exercised from our "hobby of heroes."



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Hi Kevin, thanks for your review. Although I had attempted to provide a disclaimer in the ad type for this book, I think I failed to emphasize that the book is not intended for children and so do apologize. The Revision 2 update will be out soon, and despite my wife's protests (she was the artist) I will be removing the picture in question. Although I feel that it is not at all representative of what you claim (it is, as you say, a single picture which is evoking a strong response amongst a certain percentage of people here; to contrast, the other illustration she provided offered no comments, even though it portrays violence in a different way with gender reversal) I nonetheless certainly don't wish to offend anyone on such a matter, and the book will work just fine without it. Not a Big Deal, as they say. Sometimes, the intent of an illustration is better reflected in the interpretation of the audience, and in this case, enough people were offended by it that I'll take that as my queue to remove it. I had originally believed the piece in question would work in context because the book itself, dealing with the subject of revivification of the dead and a variety of unambiguously dark and evil topics would be clear evidence that this book wasn't intending to "play it safe," but I think I see now that enough 4E gamers out there would prefer a more sanitized version of the subject. Needless to say, revision 2 will be at least more cautious in its imagrey! With regards to the mechanical design: I've received comments across the board on this both pro and con, and plenty of useful advice in the mechanical implementation of the class in 4E. Actual playtests have revealed that the class is, if anything, slightly under-powered as I used certain mechanics such as the inability of most necromancer spells to distinguish friend from foe as subtle control mechanisms. The release of the PHB2 and Arcane Power have shed a great deal of light on the underlying structure of 4E's class system, and the second edition of the book will reflect this with a new approach, in which the book does not introduce a new class but instead provides power/spell paths for wizards, warlocks and other classes, instead. It's been an interesting (and I wish I could say fun) experience with this first 4E project of mine, and I am still very glad for the feedback you have provided, as harsh as it was.
Secrets of Necromancy V1.1
Publisher: Zodiac Gods Publishing
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/25/2009 01:45:03

This is a sizable document - partly due to taking a rather broad and vague concept of its topic to include "black magic", divination, flesh golems and some half-baked Cthulhu Mythos references - but much of it is not particularly usable. I couldn't include the races, necromancer class or many of the rituals as written.

The best of this product is its description of a number of real-world deities centred around the portfolio of death (each with its different interpretation of that concern) and the Acolyte of Darkness abilities for characters serving each of them. The publisher has recently dropped the price to $2.95, which is probably as much as I would want to pay for it and not unreasonable as a sourcebook for some variant abilities for wizards, warlocks and clerics. There is a lot of disappointing material to sift through to get there.

I didn't actually mind the minion creation idea too much, if it is restricted to minions. I somewhat like the idea of a necromancer commanding a horde of uglies all to attack on one of his actions, and it's no worse than what wizard dailies can do.

A particularly poor judgement, though, was the thoroughly gratuitous illustration on page 56.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review, Jim. Actually, I most enjoyed writing the section on the deities, an area which thankfully didn't require a lot of new mechanics. Given that this is my first foray in to rule-heavy compendiums for 4th edition, I'm taking everyone's comments and suggestions very seriously, both to improve new versions of this book and to help in the development of future books, so drop me a line if you like about any specific details you want to suggest. With regard to the mythos content: yeah, it wasn't really intended to be a mythos book, but rather to offer up the trappings of such for a DM to use or disregard as he sees fit. For the better part of the book I was hoping to develop something that worked best in the classic sense of a toolkit, but than can be a problem for some people if the various features end up only providing a small portion of content useful to someone's game. On the minions: I felt very much the same way you do, and really am looking forward to some official content that handles minion summoning rules from WotC. In the interim, my local gaming groups have had a lot of fun with undead summoning, and it seems to work rather well in actual play. On the illustration on page 56: you are the second person to raise issues with regards to that particular illustration, which my wife drew. It was the principle reason I added the warning about mature content (or somesuch) in the ad listing. I asked my wife about what she intended with that illo, and to my surprise she said it was a "robbery in progress," and so I mentioned to her that some people (who knows, maybe a lot of people) were taking it rather differently. Not sure I would still exclude it, necessarily....it's very hard to find free art for a small production like this, but definitely will take in to consideration with any future releases that some people may have issues with sensitive content such as this specific piece. Anyway, thanks again. My last note is that, given how much I enjoyed writing the section on deities (Anthropolgy graduate here with a pervasive interest in mythology) I am thinking that a really interesting angle to explore for future works would be on culture-specific settings, such as a book on Mesopotamia, or Mesoamerica, in which the myth, history, and culture of a given period and location is provided a detailed treatment suitable for inclusion in an existing 4E fantasy campaign. I think I migh enjoy working on that a great deal more than the surprisingly gruelling effort it takes to produce a class book! Anyway, thanks again Jim.
Secrets of Necromancy V1.1
Publisher: Zodiac Gods Publishing
by james t. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/22/2009 04:01:42

I am by no means a game reviewer but I did want to speak about this product for a moment. It does have a few decent idea's and I do think that the author cares about producing a good product. That being said this product needs work. some of the abilities are worthless, one at will is actually worse then the standard basic attack that all characters have. While other abilities are far to good, for example summoning multiple minions that all move when you move and can all attack at the same time, this goes against one of the primary tenants of 4th edition. I do believe that there is a lot of salvageable product here with a little work & I do not feel that I did not get my moneys worth. I truly hope that the author looks into some of the current 4th ed books and rebalances this work, it has the potential to be very good.

nuff said. jim



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Hi Jim, thanks for your review. I am aware that some of the summoning (perhaps even most of the summoning rules) are not balanced relative to the current line up of WotC products. The Dread Summoner, for example, is explicitly stated as broken in the rules context. Part of the intended balance of this class focused on a couple areas that (in actual play) seemed to work reasonably well: The summoning of minions with daily spells, for example, works like the 4E pet rules. Yes, you can gain more than one minion with this class, which was an intentional effort at emulating earlier editions' summoners, something currently missing from 4E, and which I suspect may not appear for some time, if at all in an official book. The idea behind the summoner is that your necromancer gets some key figures, but he must expend his own actions to order them about. The effective basic attacks do not seem to amount to much more damage or effect than the summoner might gain by casting further regular spell attacks. Likewise, although you don't mention it, many of the necromancer spells are counter-balanced by unintended friendly fire; the necromancer can lose control of minions, for example, or many, if not most all area effect spells do not distinguish friend from foe. In actual play this seemed to balance fairly well. That said, I guess I should really emphasize that this class is intended for DMs that are interested in tinkering with or stretching the system, and are willing to adjust encounters based on whether they have allowed a necromancer in to the game or not. If you know your players have one of these, and that he can summon several bone minions in play, then it's worth the time to add a few extra bits of trouble in to the encounter. Anyway, thanks again for your comments. I might try a revision in the future that conforms more tightly to summoning effects once we actually see how summoning rules will work down the road; I haven't seen anything yet (that I am aware of) from WotC, so all I had to go by was the method of handling pets in Martial Powers. If WotC doesn't cough up any summoners in the future, I would definitely reccommend the advice I give in the book to DMs: if you don't like it, either restrict it's useage to NPCs or ban players from the class, using it to generate NPCs instead.
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