Mar 302013
 

Today, I’m going to take a look at Jon Brazer Enterprises‘ Book of Magic: Signature spell-series, starting with

 

Book of Signature Spells I

This pdf is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 8 pages for the signature spells.

 

After 3 pages of spell-lists, providing lists for classes like Magus, Alchemist, etc. (NICE!) as well as the basic core classes, we are introduced to the selection of new spells herein. If I have not miscounted, we get 31 new spells, several of which are supposed to be signature spells or certain legendary mages.  I really like that premise, as e.g. Bigby’s hands will always have fond adherents among my players, as do the Tenser, Rary, Otiluke etc. spells – being a certain mage’s work and carrying their distinct style makes them stand out amidst the flood of magic available.

 

That being said, signature spells need to go beyond just providing benefits – they have to fit a certain theme and feature an iconic quality – so, how do they stand up?

 

To be frank, the first three spells of this pdf did not excite me: They belong to a set of 4 spells that provide DR 5/alignment. Boring. Brick Wall’s Fortitude provides a scaling bonus to fort saves. Not exciting either. There are also similar spells for reflex and will saves. Gaining Dragon Scales (DR, natural armor and associated resistance) is another spell I don’t need. There are also two spells to cover one’s scent, which I consider useful but not iconic per se.

 

Fortunately, Halican’s 4 spells were up next – they deal with ships, repairing them or creating a hydraulic water burst – now we’re talking! These water-related spells fit a characteristic niche, provide neat ideas and follow them. Leighanna’s 3 spells, primarily dealing with subtle tactical advances and manipulations also offer some cool options like forcing foes to delay actions – again, neat!

 

After that, though, we once again get spells that are rather bland – greater variants of mage armor. Riyal’s three spells are low-level defensive magic and Rostov’s snake themed spells felt nice – though the Snake Strike is overpowered: A level 2 spell that grants an attack action to the creature touched at its highest attack bonus against a target, essentially enabling you to hit via your buddy. Ouch.

 

Shallan’s 4 spells deal with shadows – shadow walls, an area-of-effect enfeeblement attack (10 ft. burst) and a cha-leeching ray sorcerors and other cha-based casters will hate.

 

The pdf closes with a spell to summon dwarven armor and a wall of leaves.

 

Users of Herolab should rejoice, for the pdf comes with a .hl-file – great additional support!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to a very printer-friendly, easy-to-read 2-column standard and I really like the covers – I did not like the layout-decision to print the sub-header on the front cover in a rather bland, standard font, though. It somewhat impedes the coolness of the otherwise neat cover. The 2 pieces of b/w-artwork are nice. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and I’ve already mentioned the herolab support, another plus. Oh boy. It’s been quite I while since I was so conflicted about a pdf.

 

On the one hand, the new spells by mages and their thematic link is neat, as is the support for all the classes. On the other hand, several of the spells are the complete opposite to signature spells, being the epitome of blandness. The “alignment-body” spells and the + x to save spells are terribly uncreative and feel like filler at best. Call me cynical, but they just didn’t do it for me. Which is a damn pity: Hallican’s, Leighanna’s and Riyal’s spells felt VERY interesting, iconic and cool to me, making only more apparent that author Dale C. McCoy Jr. CAN write excellent spells. Moreover, none of the spells really felt completely out of line, striking a nice balance between innovation and power. Let me be frank: This pdf contains some of my new favorite spells. However, it also contains some of my new least favorite spells. The aim of providing signature spells has been partially fulfilled and were I to voice a request, I’d ask for flavor text (spinning little stories around the spells or their creators)as well as getting rid of filler spells in future installments. Improved versions of Mage Armor belong to a book on spell variants, not in one on signature spells.

Unfortunately, not all spells in this pdf belong to the category of kicking ass and taking names unique spells. You should just be aware that not all spells herein are killer or signature spells. The pdf is very affordable, though, and comes with Herolab-support, which somewhat offsets the relatively low amount of content when compared to other spell-centric pdfs. In the end, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform – if you’re in it for some cool spells, you won’t regret the purchase.

 

And here’s the second, rather new book of the line:

 

Book of Signature Spells II

This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 9 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

 

In the days of old, some spells were the creations of specific archwizards  -”Disjunction” was the work of Mordenkainen, a certain “laughter”-spell the creation of Tasha – this book endeavors to recreate the iconicity of said wizards by providing spells that were created by specific spellcasters – thus, we first get an introduction to the story of the spellcasters before we get the lists for the respective spellcaster-classes, including APG-classes, Magus etc.

 

The first spells we are introduced to, are Clarissa’s, which deal with divine and language-dependant spells and abilities: A dome that is deadly for the undead to sacred bonuses for you and your allies and also a spell that impedes language-dependant spells. On the other side of the holy/unholy equation, we get Gravada’s 3 spells, which enable you  to handle diseases better: From an improved form of contagion to a deadly tiring disease and a spell that makes getting rid of a disease harder, these sinister 3 spells make for a cool, nice niche of spellcasting. Also rather sinister are Iggaria’s spells, which enable you to assume a demonic form or add claws, wings etc. to your form. Halabar’s zone of frightening screams would be a way to panic multiple foes and we also get 3 new spells from Leighanna, which all could be considered to be rather interesting: From a  compulsion to end movement to one that forces the foe to deal non-lethal damage (nice also against Belkar-style players…) to one that enables you to suppress breath weapons, the spells are  neat and offer interesting tactical options.

 

Next up would be Mikard’s spells, which are especially useful for Magi – from using an improved dirty trick with dust tosses to a spell that creates a minor tornado or a tripping gust, these mostly air-themed spells practically scream to be utilized by a gish-class. The 3 new Riyal’s spells (yeah, the mage from Riyal’s Research) provide us with an interesting spell: One enables the caster to once counter a spell as an immediate action – rather powerful, but works only once per cast, cost 10 GP material components and is a level 4-spell, so yeah – while powerful, it is still a spell you won’t have active all the time: Nice! Also rather interesting in mechanics is a disrupting beam, which can be cast as an immediate action at a casting being to disrupt its casting, with the concentration DC being 10+ 1d8 per caster-level. Powerful, yet limited in appliance and the luck-factor of the dice means that players will be chewing on their nails. Rostov’s trained snake enables you to add tricks to the repertoire of your snake, while Shallan’s shadow-based spells will make for interesting additions not only to the Shadowsfall-setting, but also to the arsenal of any darkness-themed caster, including the iconic option to control a creature via its shadow. 2 of the 4 Tami’s spells are rather expensive, but use a nice mechanic: One of them temporarily robs undead of their immunities – at the price of a 100 GP moon pearl! Cool, high-level enough to make it rarely used. The final new spell would be Trask’s Wall of Blood, which nauseates those crossing the wall and grants partial concealment to one side.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a b/w 2-column standard that is very printer-friendly and the pdf comes with herolab files. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks, which is nice to see – even smaller pdfs nowadays should have them. The second installment of the signature spell-series is vastly better than its predecessors, utilizing some creative mechanics like interactions with combat maneuvers, smart counterspelling etc. without providing options that are unbalanced.  When directly compared to its predecessor, this pdf definitely provides the better options, cooler spells and less filler. Thus and due to the low price, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

Check them out here (Book I) and here (Book II).

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings!

Endzeitgeist out.

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