The Grimoire Arcane: Book of Eight Schools (Priority Review)
This supplement clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters as a prioritized review.
Okay, so what is this? In short, it’s a selection of 8 specialist wizard classes, one for each of the big schools. As such, we assume d6 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, good Will-saves and full 9-level spellcasting progression governed by Intelligence as casting ability modifier, and the progression is based on the wizard’s spells per day, as well as proficiency with select simple weapons as a default here – but there are plenty of deviations from this paradigm, which I’ll call out in the coverage of the individual respective class. The classes gain a special spellslot that may only be used for their specialty school. All of the classes come with favored class bonuses for the core-races minus the half-elf and half-orc, but plus orc.
Got that? All right, so, the abjurer is proficient with all 1-handed and ranged simple weapons, as well as boar spears and light armor, and they may cast arcane spells in light armor sans incurring the risk of arcane spell failure. This paradigm holds true for the other casters herein as well, just fyi – if they get armor proficiency from a class feature, they can cast in it. Same goes for wearing a buckler, just fyi! Spells must be taken from the abjuration, divination, transmutation or universal schools, and other schools’ spells are NOT on the spell-list. At 1st level, the character gains a bonded buckler, which may 1/day be used to cast an abjuration spell in the abjurer’s spellbook that they know and are able to cast sans preparing it beforehand. It may be enchanted and replaced, and provides the usual self-regeneration rules if only damaged. Abjurers use Intelligence, and not Constitution, to determine their bonus hit points when gaining levels in this class (important caveat to prevent dip-abuse!), and at 2nd level, they gain abjurer’s aegis, allowing them to choose one benefit when preparing spells: One nets resistance equal to the highest spell level they can cast to one of the core 4 energy damage types; number 2 nets DR of an equal amount, and number three nets a competence bonus to melee attack rolls equal to the highest level spell they can cast. At 11th level, two aegii may be chosen at once. Starting at 4th level, when wearing the bonded buckler, the abjurer may spend a swift action to grant the shield bonus to AC to all allies within 30 ft, or increase their shield bonus by this amount, with the effect lasting for Intelligence modifier rounds, up to 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. 6th level nets Mettle, which is essentially evasion for both Fort- and Will-saves…and yes, abjurers have a good Fort-save.
Starting at 8th level, they may absorb 3 times their class level, they first check for immunity, resistance or vulnerability, then apply the rest to this absorption. And yes, this RAW does apply to force, negative energy, sonic, etc. damage – but it *is* a limited ability. 10th level nets proficiency with medium armor and light shields (bonded item can now be such a shield as well), including casting in it, and 14th level upgrades that to heavy armor and heavy shields. At 12th level, whenever the abjurer dispels or counterspells an enemy’s spell, they get to scavenge the magic, prolonging the duration of an already cast abjuration spell by the negated spells’ spell level. Rules-wise, this is clever, as instantaneous spells or super-short duration ones obviously prevent use with counterspelling, but personally, I do think that it should specify that the spell to be prolonged must have a duration of rounds per level or more, but this is mostly aesthetics. At 16th level, the abjurer may expend a 3rd-level or 5th-level spellslot whenever they confirm a crit against an opponent as a free action, affecting the target with targeted dispel magic, or greater dispel magic, respectively. At 18th level, we have the ability to ward a creature by touch as a standard action, at will, and enemies have to succeed on an attack roll to attack the warded creature, including with targeted spells. Only one creature may be warded at a given time. The ability doesn’t list the saving throw formula, but, being SP; I think that 10 +1/2 class level + Intelligence modifier is an easy and intended default. The capstone lets the abjurer expend a spellslot of the same level or lower as an immediate action whenever the duration of an abjuration spell would expire, to prolong it as though it had just been cast. I really like the abjurer’s shield themes, and how it makes a defense mage really feel distinct. This is a winner.
Conjurers get proficiency with club, dagger, quarterstaff, simple ranged weapons and shortbow as well as longbow, and their spell-list covers conjuration, enchantment, necromancy and universal, with the exception of those referring to class features such as eidolons, and they also get the summon nature’s ally spell sequence. This is in as far interesting, as the special slot that conjurers get for conjurations only also require that you choose summon monster or summon nature’s ally, and said spell becomes the only one you can cast with this. Such spells also remain in effect for 1 minute per level, rather than the usual 1 round per level, and may be cast as a standard action. The latter is a significant power-gain, as summoned creatures act immediately on your turn, something usually offset by the 1 round casting duration. At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class gets one (summoning) spell added to the spell list and spells known, or the conjurer chooses a combat or teamwork feat, which ALL creatures summoned gaining that. This can be rather strong: The monsters do not RAW need to meet the prerequisites, just the conjurer. HOWEVER, you can only choose a feat you’d meet the prerequisites for to be granted by this ability, so in order to grant e.g. a feat tree to summoned monsters, you’d have to “waste” the prerequisite feats by taking them for your conjurer, so the requisite clause is fulfilled. 4th level nets Augment Summoning, and every 4 levels thereafter, we get to choose from a list of feats. The capstone makes all summon monster spells (but oddly, not summon nature’s ally) count as one spell level lower, including making summon monster I essentially a cantrip, and metamagic adjustments to such spells are treated as two lower. I won’t lie, this one sends my alarm bells ringing to a degree; the modified spell list does help keep it in check, but in order to make a final judgment on it, I’d need longterm data, which I don’t yet have. Short term, the option is certainly strong, and I’d be careful with allowing multiclassing here.
The diviner gets d8 HD, proficiency with one-handed simple weapons, lantern staves and light crossbow as well 3/4 BAB-progression and good Reflex- and Will-saves. We once more have a bonus spell slot for divinations, and spells are drawn from abjuration, divination, transmutation and universal schools. The class begins play with Scribe Scroll, and always gets to act in the surprise round, but is flat-footed until they acted. Detect Expertise is gained at 2nd level, and a whole plethora of detect spells is added to the spell list and list of spells known at 2nd level as well. Their CL is also treated as 2 higher when casting such spells. 4th level nets uncanny dodge, 8th level improved uncanny dodge; 14th level provides evasion, 18th level improved evasion. 6th level provides the detect weakness ability to use a move action to choose a creature within 30 feet, which takes a penalty to AC and saves versus the diviner’s spells and attacks equal to ½ the diviner’s class level for one round, usable 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day as a move action. This is pretty brutal and can be overkill: There is no save, and a 14th level diviner could impose a -7 penalty to e.g. saves versus transmutation’s save or suck spells like flesh to stone and the like, which is an almost guaranteed success, unless the target has REALLY high related ability scores and good save, and then it’s still a stretch if the diviner is halfway decent in their optimization. This ability is imho overkill and could have used a whack with the nerfbat. The ability’s range extends to 60 feet and may be activated as a swift action at 11th level. 10th level nets +1/2 class level to Perception. At 16th level, they autodisbelieve phantasms and get a +5 insight bonus and an automatic disbelieve save when coming within 60 ft. of illusions. The capstone lets their scrying sensors pierce lead and makes their sensors 5 harder to detect, as well as always treating them as having firsthand knowledge. In case you were wondering: I’d make detect weakness’s penalty based on ½ the highest spell level they can cast instead – that’d be e.g. -3 if they can cast a 6th level spell, which seems more in line than the escalating class level based scaling.
The enchanter gets proficiency with brass knuckles, cestus, blade boot, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, quarterstaff, sap, spring blade and war razor, and draws spells from enchantment, illusion, necromancy, universal. Their governing spellcasting ability score is Charisma, and they gain each level a bonus skill rank for Bluff and Diplomacy (normal cap applies), as well as half their class level as a bonus to those skills. At 2nd level, when attacked and damaged by a non-reach melee weapon, they can use an immediate action to generate a blast that may daze the attacker briefly, usable 3 + Charisma modifier times per day. No daze-locking, btw., and creatures with more HD are immune to it. Nice! 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a teamwork feat, which the enchanter may then share with a creature affected by their charms or compulsions as a swift action for 3 + Charisma modifier rounds. The creature DOES NOT have to meet the feat’s prerequisites. This, of course, provides a justification for why you’d want to allow the enchanter to control you…which is a surprisingly interesting angle. 6th level allows enchanters to throw off enchantment effects, with one reroll per round, up to a maximum of their Charisma modifier attempts, minimum 1.10th level affects those charmed or affected by a compulsion as by Disruptive Spell, if the enchanter chooses so. 14th level lets the enchanter sacrifice a spellslot of equal level to remove the mind-affecting descriptor from a compulsion, which is made more potent by the capstone, which btw. also autogrants the teamwork feats mentioned before sans action expenditure required. 18th level extends single-target charm and compulsion spells to another target within 30 ft. of the first. A potent take on the enchanter that fared well in my tests – as a hint: At high-levels, these fellows may very efficient guildmasters etc. and puppeteer-style villains…just sayin’…
The evoker gets a ¾ BAB-progression, d8 HD and proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, as well as alchemical thrown weapons and one martial or exotic weapon of their choice. Spells are drawn from conjuration, evocation, transmutation and universal, and we get the bonus spell slot for, bingo, evocations each spell level. The class adds their Intelligence modifier to evocation spells that deal hit point damage, but may only add it once per target in the case of multi-target spells or thse spells that can split their target. This adds damage potential, but rewards the class for spreading damage. At 2nd level, evokers choose an elemental attunement to one of the 4 core energy types; the evoker may substitute the chosen energy type for the normal one of any energy-damage causing spell of the other 4 core elements not chosen. So, if you choose cold, you could e.g. cause cold damage with spells dealing fire, acid or electricity damage, which also can change the descriptor. The ability also determines the energy used in the second ability gained at 2nd level: The evoker can use a swift action to charge wielded weapons, adding +1d6 of the chosen energy per 2 class levels on the next attack, and said attack also benefits from a competence bonus equal to the highest spell level they can cast. The charge dissipates if not used, and the evoker gets 3 + Intelligence modifier uses. 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a combat or teamwork feat as a bonus feat. 8th level nets Vital Strike, and 6 levels thereafter, this upgrades to Improved Vital Strike, finally culminating at Greater Vital Strike at 18th level. The capstone nets fee and spontaneous Maximize Spell for evocations cast for Intelligence modifier times per day. Solid take on a battle mage.
Illusionists get proficiency with dagger, hand crossbow, iron brush, kerambit, sword cane, whip and tube arrow shooter as well as light armor, and also have good Reflex-saves in addition to the Will-standard. Their spell list draws from abjuration, divination, enchantment and illusion, and the added spellslots are freely available for illusions. They begin play with ½ class level as a bonus to Perception to detect traps and see through Disguise. Second level provides a bonus to their spell DCs if the target would be denied their Dexterity modifier to AC, and at 4th level, targets attempting to pierce an illusionist’s illusion must make a CL check to do so, believing that their effect worked as intended on a failure. 8th level nets an increased DC to disbelieve the illusionist’s illusions as well as an increased Spellcraft DC to identify their handiwork. 12th level nets a miss chance whenever the illusionist moved at least 10 feet, and 16th level nets the illusionist’s Intelligence modifier as a bonus to all saving throws as well as Bluff, Disguise and Stealth. The capstone negates true strike and similar effects used against the illusionist based on knowing the future, and also shields versus the usual detections. This effect may be suppressed.
The necromancer gets d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, and adds a good Fortitude-save to the Will-save default. Proficiency includes club, dagger, heavy and light crossbow, scimitar, scythe sickle, quarterstaff and light armor, as well as medium armor made from cloth, leather or hide. Their sell lists consist of the illusion, necromancy, transmutation and universal schools, and their specialization slots may be freely used with necromancy spells. The defining feature of this one would be the corpse companion; if said companion is lost or destroyed, it can be replaced relatively painlessly in 24 hours. At 2nd level, 5th level, and every 2 levels thereafter, the necromancer gets 2 corpse points used for augmenting the corpse, which act as eidolon evolutions. The corpse companion gets full Will-save progression, ¾ BAB-progression, as well as 2 skill ranks per level, excluding 3rd level. Over the course of the 20-level progression, the companion accumulates 10 feats, but to make up for that in comparison, the Ac bonus is less than that of the eidolon’s cap. The base forms available are a canid corpse, and Small and Medium humanoid corpses, which does suffice as a baseline to create additional forms if required. It should be noted that, since the corpse isn’t as mutable and absed on fixed forms, it does not need a maximum number of attacks listed. 3rd level, in case you were wondering, nets the necromancer channel energy, but negative energy only – and yes, at full level, not at the -2 You’d expect, so these fellows actually don’t suck in comparison to clerics in that regard. Minor nitpick: I’d have liked to see the pdf state that the companion does not count for the purpose of maximum undead HD controlled, but since I’s a class feature, that is no oversight – just something that requires a bit more in-depth rules knowledge than some GMs have.
Finally, we have the transmuter, whose proficiency lists includes battle poi, bladed scarf, cat-o’-nine-tails, chain spear, dire flail, double chained kama, dwarven dorn-dergar, flail, flying talon, gnome pincher, halfling rope-shot, heavy flail, kusarigama, kyoketsu shoge, meteor hammer, morning star, nine-section whip, nunchaku, sanetsukon, scorpion whip, spiked chain, urumi, whip, light crossbow and quarterstaff. If you seriously end up using the quarterstaff with this awesome proficiency list, I really don’t know. The spell list includes conjuration, evocation, transmutation and universal, and the transmutation specialization slot isn’t limited to specific transmutation spells. The class adds good Fort-saves to the standard chassis. 1st level nets phase step, which is a 10 ft. per class level move action teleportation, usable 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. At 2nd level, all transmutations with a duration of 1 round per class level get +1 round, plus another round at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. 4th level nets the ability to sacrifice a spell of one spell level lower as a swift action when casting a transmutation to apply one metamagic feat known sans increase n level or preparing it ahead of time. Cantrips can’t be used thus – important balancing caveat. 6th level nets a -2 penalty versus the transmuter’s transmutations if the target is already under the effects of a transmutation. 8th level provides the option to sacrifice spell slots to maintain existing transmutation spells running out, but metamagic feats applied are not thus maintained, preventing cheesing with the previous ability. At 10th level, self-targeting with transmutations makes the character’s spells be treated as +3 CL. 12th level lets the transmuter, as a swift action, exchange a prepared spell with another in the spellbook, usable 1/day, +1/day every 2 levels thereafter. The capstone lets the transmuter change between different creature forms when affected by a given spell as a swift action, allowing for fluid shapechanges within a spell’s parameters.
Editing and formatting are very good as a whole – bonus types are applied consistently, and apart from a “one/once” hiccup, both formal and rules-language are precise and well-wrought. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, and the artworks used are stock arts, some of which I hadn’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Michael Sayre’s 8 variant wizard classes are a difficult design proposition – we all know that a properly played wizard (or druid) is a fearsome monster at higher levels, and incisions into their flexibility must be justified, at least to a degree. The book does this in a rather smart manner, by making the specialists real, well specialists. The loss in spell flexibility is made up for by them simply being more fun to play, at least as far as I’m concerned, and I wish we had gotten these classes when thassilonian magic was introduced – they all fell surprisingly different from core wizards in how they play. Now, I get it – divination has to do with fate, and is unpopular in many groups anyways, so I totally understand why detect weakness is as strong as it is, but if your players are fond of diviner concepts, that’s the one part of the pdf where I’d advise in favor of using the nerfed solution suggested above instead. On a very personal note, I absolutely adored both the enchanter and the abjurer. Both can be really potent if played right, and both feel VERY different from their standard specializations – these two imho warrant the asking price on their own, if you want my opinion. The necromancer is a kind of hotfix that makes arcane necromancers more on par with their cleric compatriots without stepping on the spiritualist’s toes. The evoker has a distinct soldier-mage feel to it…you get the idea. The book can’t well make up for the loss in versatility by eliminating parts of the most powerful spell list in PFRPG. Instead, it makes playing the specialists more rewarding, and, well, special as an experience. So if you started to get bored by all wizards feeling the same, this is what you should get. Considering that this was the design goal, I consider it a resounding success. It is not perfect, but its very few flaws are not nearly enough to cost this my seal of approval, or make me round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.
You can get this book of intriguing wizard specialist classes here on OBS!
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