This massive supplement clocks in at 138 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 131 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
First things first: This review is mainly based on the softcover, though I do also have the pdf. Both were provided by one of my patreons for the purpose of a review at my leisure. The pdf is formatted for an approximately 6” by 9” (A5)-booklet-size and you can, if you choose to print this out, fit up to 4 pages on a single sheet of paper.
The default rules-set assumed by this supplement would be Labyrinth Lord, and the material, over 160 new spells codified for three magic-user specialists, is not just simply lobbed at the reader: Instead, we begin this book with a series of considerations for the referee (or labyrinth lord) to add these to the game: The book provides exemplary guidance in that regard, talking about consequences of introducing this material. Similarly, there is an assortment of options to tweak the game using these spells: From fallible scroll-us to limited or reduced chances to learn, the different options are presented in a concise and crisp, exemplary manner, providing perfectly concise rules for both Basic and Advanced era games . The notion of spells as treasure is also explained in a rather detailed manner – it has been a while since I felt that a book offered guidelines this concise.
The book, generally, sports 3 different sections: The Elementalist chapter would be first, and the design notes continue the theme of guidance and explanation, providing an insightful expansion to the subject matter at hand. The elementalist, just fyi, does not simply focus on one element, but is a master of the classic 4 – and while elemental summoning is very much a potent aspect of the class, the spells do not just run the gamut of the classics, including the high-powered option to conjure the deadly and hard to control brimstone monolith, or with power word: petrify. What about a bubble of atmosphere? The power to lift land into the air to generate floating castles and the like? Yes, this is an evocative section.
We also receive a great selection of items – amalgams of contradictory elements, the ashes of leng that blow away with visions…some cool items here.
OSR-gamers who have been clamoring for a crisp and precise representation of the necromancer can similarly find that within this book: From binding spirits to choking targets, pronouncing rotting curses or taking on the visage of a corpse, the spells cover the classics, beyond the standard undead control tricks and death magic. Exterminating vermin, preserving bodies…and of course, zones of weakening, death magic and the like can all be found for these guys here.
Once again, we do get a selection of magic items, including the blood jewels of Orcus, magic shrouds, rules for skeleton keys (literal ones) and variant shrunken heads are cool – and yes, there are teeth that you can plant to grow skeletons…yeah, the material does quote classic tropes, and does so well.
Regarding the presentation of the spells, we have spell, name, spell level, subtypes/schools listed, as well as range and duration. Spell presentation is by level first, alphabetic second. The final (and imho by FAR best) chapter of the book details the vivimancer – though unfortunately not all of it: Still, this is a great teaser, though if you’re primarily interested in the class, get “The Complete Vivimancer” instead. It has more material that that contained within this book.
The book closes with a brief bestiary, with b/w-artworks for all critters – death cap fungi, para-elemental stats, elementines (mini-elementals), flame agarics, monstrous fly agarics, fluid beasts, soil beasts, wind horrors and leprous dead make for a solid array of creatures.
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. The content is crisp, concise and well-balanced. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard. The artworks with the full version are really nice b/w-pieces (though it should be noted that a few show exposed nipples in a non-erotic manner, so if you’re prude about that, bear that in mind). The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a serious comfort detriment for the electronic version. The softcover I have sports its name on the spine and is a nice little book – I’d recommend print, if in doubt.
Gavin Norman’s massive collection of magic tradition is an inspired look at three iconic traditions. It is extremely fair to allow the customers to get the art-less FREE version to check out the content, so if you’re in doubt whether it is something for you, check it out. That being said, I am frankly not 100% sure I’d get this again. The book is crisp and its precise rules-language is, for the most part, really well-made and professional. However, the best part of the book, at least to me, is the vivimancer…and to get the most out of this guy, you should get “The Complete Vivimancer“; in direct comparison, this book feels more like a teaser.
This also extends to presentation and layout – the vivimancer book just looks better to me, with its crisp layout.
While this sounds negative, it shouldn’t be – this is an amazing book of OSR-magic, with even old and tired tropes like necromancers and elementalists getting some concise and well-made, creative options.
So, how to rate this? Should you get this?
Well, I’d STRONGLY suggest getting at least the art-free version and leaving a tip – if you like what you see, get the book. If you’re like me and a jaded bastard who has seen too many books and thus isn’t too into the first two chapters, check out the vivimancer chapter and get the phenomenal book on this specialist.
All right, then…how to rate this? To me, at least, this is a good book – but a third of it can be found in the vivimancer book, in a greatly expanded manner. For a FREE book, this is phenomenal – that version most assuredly deserves 5 stars, in spite of the lack of bookmarks. The commercial version is cool, but not necessarily a must-own in my book. My final verdict for the regular version will hence clock in at 4 stars.
You can check out the FREE, art-less version here on OBS!
You can get the full version, art and all, of this cool supplement here on OBS!