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The Complete Vivimancer $9.99
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The Complete Vivimancer
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The Complete Vivimancer
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2017 11:03:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 85 pages of content. It should be noted that the pages adhere to a 1-column standard and the pdf is formatted for an 6'' by 9'' (A4)-booklet size-standard - if you print this out, you could potentially try to fit multiple pages on one sheet of paper, but I would not recommend that here, due to some elements of the layout. Instead, I'd suggest going for the PoD-softcover. My review is primarily based on the print version of this supplement, which was kindly provided by one of my patreons, with the task of finishing a review of this pdf at my earliest convenience.

All right, so the default OSR-rules-set for this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, though conversion to other rules systems is pretty simple. The vivimancer class gets d4 HD, 9-level spell progression and behaves basically like a magic user specialist. In basic games, only humans may be vivimancers, while in advanced games, elves and half-elves also qualify, capping at 11th and 10th level, respectively. For our convenience, the level-progression and save-tables have been reproduced.

Magical research is unlocked at 9th level, and 11th level usually provides a stronghold. House-rule options for the transparency between vivimancer and magic-user tricks are included. Some vivimancer spells reference a save vs. polymorph, which is treated as the petrify/paralysis save.

But what is a vivimancer? Something absolutely awesome. I mean, everyone, at this point, knows necromancers. Well, vivimancers are just as creepy, if not more creepy: Scientists of life, often disturbing and amoral, who can twist the very forces of life to their very whims. Existing in the borderland between science and magic, they allow you to blend the weird and icky; or add science-fantasy to the game...or add some other thematic ideas. The magic per se can be reskinned in a variety of ways...but before we get to the magic per se, let me mention something I adore here:

You see, the spells the vivimancer gets reward planning and consideration - but they often require a bit of forethought: The concise rules for laboratories and their constructions is a dream. They fit on one page, are crisp and can easily be tied into e.g. LotFP's magic-user lab-rules. They also present a resounding rebuttal to the notion that OSR-supplements don't need or require precise rules or that they restrict imagination - this page is beautiful. Similarly, the concise rules for experimental subjects and tissue samples taken are BEAUTIFUL. Oh, and guess what? All rules fit on 3 pages, 4 with the table. And they can't be misread. Old-school designers, take a cue here. This is how it's done.

Now, the beauty of this crisp, extremely professional presentation continues with the spells:On the left-hand side of each page, you have the spell-name, duration and range, and if applicable, suggested houserules. Better yet: Houserules do actually include observations in how they impact game-balance, allowing the referee to make informed decisions about their inclusion. Now the spells are organized by spell level first, alphabetically second, and they are not only creative, their balance with regular magic-user options is pretty much impeccable as well: From the utility tricks like a not 100% reliable means of detecting poison (so no, it doesn't wreck any plots) to binding familiars; from conjuring forth creeping homunculi to warp the bones of your victims, the spells evoke a very powerful leitmotif of biomancy: The manipulation of flesh to form pockets, to control hormones, to enhance senses or meld the flesh of victims all evoke a sense of the delightfully uncanny, with a tint of body horror thrown in for good measure. Surges of temporary life, accelerated bodily functions, absorbing faces (!!!), using insects as messengers - the classic tropes of witches etc. are blended with the strange and evocative for spells that fit perfectly and that feel somewhat...real, in lack of a better term. The magic generally feels like it could work as a strange form of pseudo-science, adding a sense of almost occult legitimacy to the spellcasting tradition.

Staunching or speeding up the flow of blood, reversible anthropomorphism, growing new appendages...have I mentioned the spell to decode the genome of a target? Artificial creatures can thus yield the name of their creator from their genome, while enhancements thereafter provide a similarly cool angle to pursue Reverting biology can be pictured as a means to offset the power of the vivimantic arts - with a sole focus on preparation and the modification of living tissue, vivimancy is potent, but ultimately, it is balanced ingeniously and perfectly via its limited focus and the means to undo its radical incisions into nature. And yes, dear fans of Jack Vance, the vats of creation, to a degree, represent the backbone and heart of this tradition. Need I honestly gush more about how amazing these spells are? I do? All right: When I read this book, I immediately felt compelled to convert the spells to ALL of the rules systems I play in. I absolutely adore this tradition and its superbly creative spells. Have I mentioned the 9th level option to create an artificial intelligence? The CONCISELY-presented psionic awakening? Have I mentioned how much I love how PRECISE and yet open the crunch herein is? And yes, if you don't have a preferred psionics system, an option for the like is included among the appendices.

The book is not just the vivimancer and his spell-list, though: We also get a wide array of thematically-concise "magic items" - which may well be creatures in this case. Let me mention some names - they're pretty much all you need to know: Assassin bug. Brain leech. Lockroaches. The latter are btw. stick insects that you can use to open locks. This could be straight out of a China Miéville novel. Lab equipment. Seeds that grow huts. A whole class of magical lenses. Let me quote something here: "This [...] tree [...] looks like a normal tree, bedecked in exotic yellow flowers. It is only upon closer inspection that one may notice that the tree is actually covered in a network of blood vessels. Indeed, if the tree's flesh is cut, it will bleed..." And yes, they produce healing fruit...though eating that is a rather gruesome, bloody affair...Mandrake types, philters that prevent or enhance the fertility of the target creature (allowing for those delightful interspecies crossbreeds...), solvents that reduce to essential salts... these items are amazing in their creativity, their focus, their themes. Wands that instill spasms can also be found.

Oh, and yes, animal and plant mutations all get their own page of tables for randomly determining them, and we get a basic spell-list with 12 spells per level as well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to a crisp and cleanly-presented 1-column b/w-standard with nice sidebars. The b/w-artworks sport the same style as the cover and can sometimes contain a bit disturbing visuals - but that lies within the nature of this magic. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a major comfort detriment that costs the electronic version 1 star - I'd strongly suggest going for the print version. The softcover has the name on the spine and is well-made, so yeah, get that one.

Gavin Norman's "The Complete Vivimancer" is a joy to behold: Precise and to the point, it provides the glorious innovation that you can find in OSR-gaming and supplements it with tight, crisp and precise rules. The balancing of the spells makes sense; the spells are glorious and the magic items chapter is similarly glorious. In short, this supplement is FANTASTIC. This book is worth getting. Heck, even if you don't like OSR-gaming, this should be worth its asking price: The material is inspired and warrants conversion. Yes, that good. Fans of dark fantasy or weird fantasy, LotFP, DCC, etc. should definitely consider getting this gem. In fact, if what I mentioned even remotely strikes a chord with you, then get this. I know that NONE of my campaign settings will ever lack the art of vivimancy. As an aside: A conversion of these guys may actually make running a cleric-less/divine magic less setting easier.

This is absolutely fantastic and one of my all-time favorite old-school rule-supplements. It should be part of the library of any self-respecting OSR-referee. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Vivimancer
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Michael R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/09/2016 22:42:08

A campaign setting in a character class. Brilliant, interesting, weird, gross stuff. Great art and writing.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Vivimancer
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/27/2015 10:14:00

There are important books that come out and then there are books for OSR games that you wonder how you ever did without them at the gaming table. Years ago, I downloaded Theorems & Thaumaturgy, which is available as a free download now: it contains (among many other things) a basic version of the vivimancer class. The Complete Vivimancer is essentially not only as a follow up book but an expansion of this class that does some awesome things with biosorcery, magic items, spells,etc. This is because I've been reading and following through The Complete Vivimancer From Necrotic Gnome Productions after tearing into the free monster & adventure book Out of the Vats . The Complete Vivimancer does exactly what it says on the tin. It brings eighty eight pages of sheer wizard master goodness of gene splicing, cross breeding,and the Vivimancer as a corruptor of nature itself. In the first two pages of the book we get a complete overview of this class and then the book jumps into the deep end of the darkness . For the advanced edition version of this class we get Elves and half Elves as the preferred racial foundations for the Vivimancer. This enables them to advance up to 10th and 11the levels respectively. This reenforces the alien aspect of the Elven race and this is part of an under current theme in the OSR that Elves really are far more alien to the humanity. A fact that came in loud and clear in games such as LoFP. This supplement takes full advantage of this fact and even through it claims to be for Labyrinth Lord. There are ton of options for adding this book to both OD&D and its retroclone systems all the way through the various Advanced editions.
Another added bonus is the amount of time it takes the vivimancer down in the lab to master the craft of flesh warping, genetic meddling, neural manipulation, and vat growth to become a master of mind slaves, mutants, symbionts, parasites, and viruses.The guidelines for this book's chapter are very nice and helps to flesh out the laboratory details and adds a certain Lovecraftian something to the class. The book details a ton of spells for levels between one all of the way to nine. And here's where the book really starts to take off for me. The spells have flavor and add a ton of resonance for me for the backbone of the Vivimancer as a whole. These twisted freaks are putting together the horrors and weirdness that adventurers loath to encounter. Remember those random monster tables that created horrors with the claws of a lobster, the head of a giant monkey, and demons blood that the DMG guide had in it. These are the wizardly guys putting those together. The magic item section proves that in spades. We get an overview of items for these twisted practitioners of the bio sorcery arts over and over again. Here's why you want one of these guys in your party, not only are they going to know the ins and outs of the biology and applications of this stuff they're going to want some of this of stuff as their own which means favors and big ones at that. The last sections are appendixes on mutations and psionic powers, these are really needed because of the bio science fantasy and fictional nature of this class. There's lots of icky stuff in this book, slime laden weirdness that brings to mind all of the really cool VHS nastiness of the Eighties horror movies, science fiction 'B' films, and lots of other wonderfulness but it also clocks in with all of the pulpy bits from the science fiction, fantasy,etc. of the 1930's thru 1950's. As far as I'm concerned this is win/win. So let's get right down to brass tacks, is this a good book and even a necessary one? Yes not only is this a good book but it has a huge range of possibilities at the gaming table. You really do want a mad scientist type in your party, you want them as vile villains as well. This brings the dual nature of the class as a whole. This book gives you every last tool to pop these guys into the post apocalyptic wasteland, the science fantasy deserts of your choice, as dimensional travelers and invaders, as motivators for adventures, adventurer patrons, twisted healers, & the list goes on and on. In my own Warlords of the Outer Worlds setting, I'm using these guys sparingly and lovingly as a twisted faction. Applying what I've learned about them after reading about them over the last week or so, I've come to the conclusion that one can take the frame work and backdrop of the Vivimancer and apply their own creations to the class without losing the vitality and freshness of these twisted practitioners of the dark arts of bio sorcery and mad biological magicks. So five out of five for one of the more original and flat out weird books and PC classes to come down the pike in a very long while. Eric F Sword and Stitchery blog



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Vivimancer
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2014 21:40:21

I recently downloaded The Complete Vivimancer the new book from Necrotic Gnome Productions, the same folks that gave us Theorems & Thaumaturgy.

Gavin Norman, of the City of Iron blog, gives us a new(ish) class, the Vivimancer. The book is 88 pages and advertised as Labyrinth Lord compatible with both Basic and Advanced stats (more on that in a bit).
The class was introduced in Theorems & Thaumaturgy. The basic class is a type of Wizard/Magic-User and detailed on two pages. The experience per level, saves, spells, and attacks are not too different from the Magic-user normal. For the Advanced option elves and half-elves can also be vivimancers. Interestingly enough elves can advance to 11th level and half-elves to 10th. I would have expected it to be the other way around.

The next substantial chapter is on Spells and Laboratory procedures. The biggest expense in gold and time for the vivimancer is his laboratory. The vivimancer according to the rules needs to spend 6 hours per day in his lab. I wonder how much time this leaves for adventuring, eating and sleeping. Sure some apprentices can cover this time. Upkeep costs is 10 gp per spell level, so about 1980gp per month at 20th level. Not unreasonable really.

The next 65 pages detail spells levels 1 to 9. Like most Labyrinth Lord compatible products the spells are compatible across a wide variety of products. You could use these with any old school product wizard, magic-user and yes witch. Though to do so I think robs the class of some it's charm and power. The spells are a varied sort. There are some very useful, some are variations on a theme and others will have limited utility to the adventuring vivimancer. But all have a lot of style. If you prefer your games a little more G-rated then this isn't a book for you. While not as over the top as Carcosa or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, there are a lot of cutting things up and putting them back together.

The chapter on magic items is nice varied lot as well, with attention paid to things the vivimancer needs to perform his craft.

We also get Appendices on Psionic Powers and Mutations. Both are fine and work but in use I might swap out the same rules in the Labyrinth Lord compatible Mutant Future.

Overall I really liked it. Like the book said why let Necromancers have all the fun. There is a lot here that can be used in any game really even if you never use them as a class. Personally I wonder what a bad guy team of a Vivimancer and Necromancer might produce. Heck with the Advanced rules, a Vivimancer/Cleric.

There are couple of places where Insanity is mentioned but not a lot of details on how insanity would work in a game.

The art is somewhat sparse, but it is all original and unique to this book (ok maybe 1 or 2 are in T&T). So that gives it a sum positive in my mind.

The book is 88 pages, as mentioned above, and lists at $10.00 for the PDFs. Maybe a bit higher $/page ratio, but I'll be honest I am not sure where to price these things. I think $7.50 would have been best, but I am not judging.

I have to admit I was set to like this book. "The Complete Vivimancer" reminds me of the old Bard Games "The Compleat Spellcaster" and "The Compleat Alchemist". Not just in terms of title and feel, but in terms of content. This is the sort of thing I enjoy from the OSR/Old School publishing realms. I like something I can drop into my games with no issues. Plug and Play gaming.

I would like to recommend this book. I particularly recommend it as a change of pace from the evil Necromancer NPC.

There is a lot to love about this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to write the review Tim! Just to clarify what you mentioned about the rules for laboratory usage: the requirement of spending 6 hours a day in the lab is only when a magical procedure (i.e. a spell) is underway. The rest of the time the vivimancer is free to go adventuring or get up to whatever mischief he or she should wish.
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