Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekend Review - Ultimate Magic Part 2

Chapter 2: Mastering Magic

The Mastering Magic section covers a lot of ground, Everything from Spellblights, maladies unique to spellcasters. Spell Duels are covered, for the classic wizardly spell battle. Advanced rules for binding outsiders for those that treat with diabolical or angelic forces, or any of the other outsiders; it’s pretty interesting, as it presents ways to gain the upper hand based upon which type of outsider you’re dealing with.

Now to the portions that I know I’ll use in my own games. The first are the sorely needed construct rules for building and modifying constructs. First up are the animated object rules, giving more options for the simplest of constructs. The remainder of the construct rules are excellent, simple enough to be useful, complex enough to create dynamic constructs. Rune-Carved is fun, Rune of Lightning for example can create a nasty surprise. Of course I wish there were more options, but there are enough to get my mind whirling with new ideas, a Shatter pocket with Steam for a Clockwork Golem perhaps?

12 new familiars are presented, though I don’t understand why one of the most deadly octopi in the ocean causes str dmg instead of con dmg. This includes vermin familiars, including the greensting scorpion, king crab, scarlet spider and house centipede. For the more hedge wizardly types, there are a couple of farm animals, notably the pig and goat. There’s also the boys favorite, the turtle, go adventuring with your box turtle, why not it grants +1 natural armor!

Spellbooks, these are one of the best things in the entire book. The premade spellbooks, though with a little twist. The preparation ritual. If you prepare at least three spells from the book you’re granted a boon, for example, the Tome of the Transmuter grants the boon of “Defensive Transformation”. Which gives a +2 natural armor bonus as a free action when taking on a new form with a personal range transmutation spell. Some of the books are geared for alchemists even.

Finally, Designing spells. I used to love designing spells in 2nd edition. The rules are extensive and well thought out. A must if you have a player wizard who wants to design a new spell.

Chapter 3: Feats.

With 102 feats, many new options are opened up. One of the most notable lines of feats is the Eldritch Heritage lines, which allows non-sorcerers access to the different bloodlines. There are two new feats aimed at necromancers specifically, Skeletal Summoner, lets the summoner summon skeletons instead of living creatures with summon monster. Undead Master lets the necromancer to animate and command more undead. Finally the Quarterstaff Master line of feats leads to one of my favorites, the Tripping Whirl, which lets you make a trip attempt against all adjacent creatures.

9 new metamagic feats are also introduced, and the ensemble team feat. The piercing metamagic feat is exceptionally powerful, for the cost of 1 spell level, you are able to pierce spell resistance easier.

Chapter 4: Words of Power

Words of Power, a new word based power system for Pathfinder. This is a decent system, though it gives up quite a bit of power for flexibility. I doubt I would use it except as an alternate magic system, where every magic user was based upon words. I wish they had provided a skill based system as well, something like the system in Green Ronin’s Black Company campaign setting.

Chapter 5: Spells

What book of magic would be complete without new spells? Some sorely needed upgrades to spells are produced, such as False Life, Greater, and Greater Darkvision.

New summoning options include, lesser animate dead, summon minor monster, summon minor ally, plus a couple powerful summonings, summon elder worm and a froghemoth. A fun new 9th level spell summons 3-6 temporary Wood Golems.

A new line of spells is introduced, the Undead Anatomy line, and the Monstrous Physique lines. Both these spell lines are similar to beast shape or dragon form spells, but giving additional options, especially interesting with the undead anatomy line. One of the best new spells is Masterwork transformation. A great way for characters to hold onto their heirloom items and eventually make them magical.

One of the best new spells is Masterwork transformation. A great way for characters to hold onto their heirloom items and eventually make them magical.

Though the material components cost the same as buying a masterwork item or ammunition.

Artwork: Epic! The artwork as always is littered with the iconics, making the entire book feel connected to the system. The artwork at the beginning of each chapter is dynamic, typical of Wayne Reynolds artwork. Each of the new classes receives its own WAR artwork.

Replay Value: More options, more replay value as always. Endless possibilities.

Comprehension Level: There’s a lot of variation in this book, a good comprehension of the core rules is required before venturing into Ultimate Magic territory.

Game Mastering: This supplement adds a lot of complexity to an already complex game; make sure you review the material before allowing players to take options from this book. However, it’s fun to have more options as a game master as well.

Price Tag: Ultimate Magic will cost you $39.99 for print, $9.99 PDF.

Value: For me, it’s well worth the money. I love complex characters and not necessarily optimized characters, this lets me have more and more options. I know I’ll be using the Construct Rules, and the Spellbooks, including converting many of the old pages from the mages books. Words of Power I will only use in a campaign that was entirely based on those rules.

Overall Rating: **** The amount of freedom you gain as a player or game master is amazing, and generally it’s all very well balanced, not a case of any particular class becoming the flavor of the month. There are issues with Ultimate Magic, it seemed a bit rushed, and there are lots of FAQs on it, especially with the Qinggong monk, as several people have interpreted it in different ways. Overall it's a great book, and once the FAQs are dealt with

Note: family rating is based upon the Core rules.