Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wednesday Review - Ultimate Magic Part 1 of 2

In keeping with the GenCon month. I'm going to review Ultimate Magic this week rather than a boardgame. The Weekend review will be Ultimate Combat.

Product Description from Paizo.com:

Unlock the magical mysteries of the Pathfinder RPG with this exhaustive guide to the art of magic, an invaluable resource for players and Game Masters alike!

This comprehensive 256-page hardcover reference unveils the magical secrets of the Pathfinder rules like never before. Tons of new tricks and techniques for every spellcasting class in the game fill the book, ranging from arcane secrets uncovered by studious wizards to dazzling ki-tricks performed by canny monks to new mutagens for alchemists, new oracle mysteries, specialized channel energy options for clerics, and more.

Ultimate Magic also introduces the latest Pathfinder RPG base class: the magus. Combining arcane spells with practiced martial skill, the magus incorporates elements of the warrior and wizard to walk a path balanced between two deadly efficient extremes. All this plus more than 100 new spells for all spellcasting classes, an innovative new “words of power” spellcasting system, a complete system for 1-on-1 spell duels, and more.

    Ultimate Magic includes:
  • New player character options for all 14 spellcasting Pathfinder RPG base classes, including alchemist discoveries and bombs, specific bard performances, specialized uses for channel energy, expanded druid domains and rules for vermin companions, new inquisitor archetypes, ki tricks, alternative oracle curses and revelations, new sorcerer bloodlines, additional summoner eidolon abilities and eidolon templates, new witch hexes and patrons, wizardly arcane discoveries, and more!
  • The Magus, a brand-new 20-level base class that mixes wizardry with martial skill
  • Extensive overviews of new and existing magic subsystems such as condition-based magic, cooperative casting, magical organizations, unpredictable primal magic, counterspelling, binding outsiders, crafting golems, etc.
  • Lots of new familiars
  • Premade spellbooks suitable for use at all levels of play
  • Tons of new feats specifically designed for magic-using characters
  • Brand new “words of power” alternative magic system
  • More than 100 brand new spells!
  • …and much, much more!

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-299-9

Pathfinder Ultimate Magic Review

This is a review of the Ultimate Magic for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as published by Paizo, under the OGL.

irst Glance: Paging through the book, the first thing you come across is the Magus, the new Fighter/Mage hybrid class. The next thing you come across is the magic based archetypes. One of the most enticing new things I ran across in the book is the Construct modifications rules; rules that have been sorely needed. They brought in special spellbooks, similar to the old pages from the mages articles from Dragon magazine. Then you run across the Words of Power rules, spells.

Main Review:

Chapter 1: Spellcasters

Let’s start with the Magus, I was leery of this class during beta testing of it, it’s a hard thing to make a combat mage balanced without stripping it of its appeal. I feel the magus does that. For the record, I hate the name Magus for this class and I feel that feedback in regards to the name was ignored. The magus is limited to level 6 spells, which is on par with the other caster heavy hybrids. (Combat heavy hybrids being limited to 4th level spells.) Unfortunately the magus is still a prepared spell class; perhaps an alternate spontaneous class will be added later. Magus are able to fight with a one handed weapon and cast a spell with the other. Their real power comes with the Magus Arcana they can learn, like rogue talents, yet giving them a broad range of abilities. Eventually they gain heavy armor proficiency, thus the ability to cast spells and wear heavy armor, when out of spells, the ability to use martial weapons, keeps them in the fight.


25 new discoveries, many are bomb discoveries, from blinding bombs to sunlight and tanglefoot bombs.Healing touch can transform the alchemist into an assistant healer. Several others give aberrant additions such as tentacles, vestigial wings, or the ultra creepy tumor familiar. 8 new archetypes, the Chirurgeon, lets the alchemist become a true healer. Others include Clone Master, Internal Alchemist, Mindchemist, Preservationist, Psychonaut, Reanimator, and the Vivisectionist.


Bards gain a entirely new feat-like mechanic called Masterpieces; though they can be acquired by sacrificing a spell slot in lieu of a feat. Everquest™ fans will enjoy Triple Time the most, as it is a group speed increase, 10ft land speed increased for 1 hour, for a cost or 1 bardic performance rd. Now all you need is a drum that doubles the speed. Ever wanted to be a celebrity in the game? Well you can choose the celebrity archetype and be just that. Other Bard Archetypes include, the Animal Speaker, Demagogue, Dirge bard, the Asian inspired Geisha, Songhealer, and the Sound Striker.


Variant Channeling, this introduces a new mechanic, domain based alternate effects, for the cost of half the healing channel. Only four new archetypes, the Cloistered Cleric, the Separatist, Theologian, and the Undead Lord. The Undead Lord lets you play the divine based Necromancer….complete with a Corpse Companion.


Druids get a slew of Animal and terrain based domains, which helps differentiate them from clerics more, whether it’s a Mountain Domain druid or an Eagle druid. Vermin companions, are introduced in this book. A bunch of new archetypes are introduced, including the Menhir Savant, Pack Lord, Mooncaller, Reincarnated druid, and the Storm Druid. The new shaman types are the Dragon Shaman, and the Saurian Shaman, one of my favorites, Tyrannosaur at level 1, advances to large at level 7….nice.


A new type of domain is introduced for inquisitors, inquisitions, which replace some of the worthless domains. New archetypes include the Exorcist, Heretic, Infiltrator, Preacher and Sin Eater. Of these archetypes, I feel the Sin Eater is the most creative, the character must eat the sins of their enemy, kind of like counting coup of certain Native American tribes. By ‘eating’ their sins, you deny their soul to their god.


So even though the class is new, there are four archetypes, The Black Blade’s bonded weapon is an intelligent weapon that grows with the magus and has an arcane pool of its own. The Hexcrafter borrows a little from the witch. Spellblades use force magic and have three of their own arcane. Finally the Staff Magus is a master of the quarterstaff, actually gaining the Quarterstaff Master at first level as a bonus feat. Which is pretty big, it allows taking weapon specialization, even with no fighter levels, and ignores the pre-req of weapon focus. There is a broken build currently, the Dervish Dance feat build (Inner Sea World Guide), I only say it’s broken because its almost a no brainer, because the dex becomes the to hit, damage, and ac modifier. In addition, the 18-20 crit threat of the scimitar works especially well to deliver extra spell critical damage during a spell strike. Watch out for Kobold wielding scimitars…


What’s the monk doing in Complete Magic? Well they’re working on their Ki powers. Namely through the use of Monk Vows, but also with the Qinggong monk, which allows the monk to swap out powers similar to an archetype but much more freeform, even allowing you to select a swapped power from a lower level and get it later. This is something I pushed for during Beta, and I’m very glad to see it in print now.


Several new mysteries are Ancestor, Dark Tapestry, Metal, Time and Wood. Brining Wood and Metal in completes the five eastern elements for oracles as well. I would like to see a unified Five elements mystery as well. The Dual Cursed archetype allows the oracle to have two mysteries, at a price. Other archetypes include the Enlightened Philosopher, Planar Oracle, Possessed Oracle, Seer, and the Stargazer.


Paladins have a new archetype which opens up lots of new options, the Oathbound Paladin. Once the oathbound archtype is chosen, multiple non conflicting oaths may also be taken, this gives the oathbound more restrictions role-playing wise as they must abide by their oaths and their deities code of conduct. The big thing that comes with the oaths is access to oath spells, like domain spells.Oath against Corruption adds true strike to the paladin’s list of spells, in addition to acute sense, touch of idiocy and spell immunity, for example. Other oaths against x, include Fiends, Savagery, Undeath and Wyrms. To round out the list of Oaths, are Charity, Chastity, Loyalty and Vengeance.


Rangers only have one Archetype in Ultimate Magic, The Trapper. The Trapper grants access to new Ranger traps in lieu of spellcasting, which is good to have another option for those who don’t want spellcasting rangers. The interesting thing about ranger traps, they aren’t just normal mechanical traps, they can be magical or mechanical, and can even be set “cast” by an arrow. This is especially insidious with the Swarm Trap…


In addition to new Bloodlines, 2 new archetypes make their appearance, the Crossblooded, which is very similar to the Dual Cursed Oracle. And the mutated Wildblooded archetype which uses the subdomain mechanics reskinned for sorcerers, of which the Bedrock wild bloodline works off of the Deep Earth bloodline, and is defense oriented, which is a nice one for summoner type sorcerers as the arcana grants your summoned creatures DR (1/2 sorc level)/adamantine. The Bloodline power is Iron Hide at 9th level, which grants sorclevel rounds per day of DR10/adamantine. The new bloodlines are Accursed, Djinni, Efretti, Maestro, Marid, Rakshasa and Shaitan. While the Rakshasa line isn’t ultra powerful, it is one of my favorite, I might run a Tiefling (rakshasa heritage) Sorceror with the Rakshasa bloodline after the Advanced Races Guide hits the shelves.


The main focus of the summoner additions is templates for easy eidolon creations. Very nice resource if your trying to get a specific look for your eidolon. Also nice for new players and for the GM on the go. New evolutions of note are the magic evolutions. Four new archetypes are introduced, The Broodmaster, Evolutionist, Synthesist and the Master Summoner, which gives up significant power for their eidolon for greater summon monster ability, and the ability to have their eidolon and summoned monsters up at the same time.


New Hexes, lots of them, and creepy NPC oriented ones to boot, such as Child Scent (ala Hansel and Gretl) ,Poison Steep (perfect for those poisoned apples), the cannibalistic Cook People, and Witch Hut, perfect for those Baba Yaga witch. Alternative patron themes are given. In addition four archetypes, Beast Bonded, Gravewalker, Hedge Witch and the Sea Witch; the Hedge witch is a good adventuring healer based witch.


Arcane Discoveries are the first new rules for wizards, which may be taken in place of the bonus feats. The two missing Oriental schools, wood and metal are introduced, making way for the Asian themed characters. The only archetype is a very cool concept, the Scrollmaster which can use scrolls as either shield or weapons, and of course, they received improved scroll casting at level 10, letting them cast scrolls as normal spells.

Due to the amount of text in this post, I'm going to split the review into two parts.