So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!
One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. The pdf predates the ACG and OA, and as such, I will not complain about a lack of representation of the classes from these books in the spell-lists.
Anyways, this pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page blank, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this pdf with a brief recap of what constitutes a bonded companion for the purpose of this pdf. It should also be noted that, unlike a few of the other entries in the series, the witch-class actually gets some new spell material herein. As before, formatting of spells is missing bolding, but otherwise is pretty tight.
Anyways, let’s move to the spells, the first of which, adduced mastery, clocks in at 2nd level for all classes.This spell lets you touch a ring or item; the caster then can gain a feat of the former owner of that item for the spell’s duration, though he still needs to qualify for it, which is an important measure to prevent abuse. The duration is pretty long and the pdf is smart enough to cover magic item slot-interaction in the context of the pdf. Armament of energy clocks in at 2nd level for all arcane casters apart from alchemist and witch and generates a weapon for which the caster must have proficiency. Attacks executed with the energy weapon substitute the casting ability modifier for Strength and are applied 1.5 if shaped as a two-handed weapon. Here’s the interesting thing: The weapon generates a pool of dice of energy damage chosen from the 4 basic elements (nitpick: It’s electricity damage, not electrical damage) that may be discharged with successful attacks. Now, personally, I think that there ought to be a cap on maximum discharge per hit to prevent nova-crits, for the energy damage multiplies fully, which can result in pretty ridiculous crits. That being said, apart from that, the spell does a lot right and even covers decreased damage die size for sonic damage.
Bond transpossession I is really interesting, in that it allows you to replace a bonded creature with one available from summon monster/nature’s ally, with the type of spell this is based on contingent on the spell list available to the class. This is really cool, at it allows you to have the “right” bonded companion available. It should also be noted that the pdf provides bonus spells for this one – bonded transpossession II – IX. This is important, since the spells, subject to GM approval, can also yield other forms beyond the list, balanced by CR. The follow-up spells properly and appropriately scale this.
Cry of blood can be cast as a swift action and is available for bard, sorc/wiz and cle/oracle. Its components…include 1 round of rage. An ally within earshot under the benefits of a morale bonus you created gains the benefits of rage and potentially rage powers you have and may end a rage-burst thus granted as a free action sans suffering fatigue. Interesting for multiclass characters currently not in rage/the option to cast in rage. Divine echoes is a level 1 spell for bards and the non-nature-themed divine classes and nets the recipients of your morale bonus granting “bard song” (not the proper term) the benefits of sacred bonuses you currently enjoy. It also lets you grant an ally affected smite, though you still have to activate it. Interesting one, though the bonus-sharing can become rather brutal. Eidolonic weapon is available for assassin, blackguard, cle/oracle, sorc/wiz, magus, pala…and wizard? That should be witch. It allows you to draw a weapon you’re proficient with from your eidolon, using its natural attacks as a template to determine its damage.
Sacred savagery is available for antipala, pala and cle/oracle at 2nd spell level and requires one use of channel energy as a component. It allows the character to used the channeled energy to either sustain a limited, morale bonus-granting ability for the duration (which is OP – this should be based on channel dice) or enhance the bonuses. Weird: Here, it is based on channel dice. Sanguine bond clocks in at 2nd level for alchemist, summoner, witch and sorc/wiz, 1st spell level for the ranger. The spell affects the caster and companion and allows the caster to imbibe potions, mutagen and spells and choose to split the duration evenly between caster and companion or have the companion instead be affected. Interesting! Shared instincts clocks in at level for most classes, level 3 for druids, and allows for the sharing of insight bonuses, “precision-based hit and damage bonuses” (what’s the hit bonus here? I know precision damage, but no such bonus exists…) and sneak attack dice (covered under precision, so redundant). This can be really brutal with the right build.
The final spell herein would be trance of divine precision, available for antipala and pala as well as cle/oracle. The spell consumes 1 use of channel energy as a material component. “For the duration
of this spell you add your dice of channeling damage to all critical hits, ranger favored enemy bonuses, and other precision based attacks (such as sneak attack).” Okay, does this mean the NUMBER of channeling dice? Or the actual dice? In the latter case, we have a ridiculous damage escalation in the right hands. The only reason I am not screaming bloody murder here is the multiclass requirement and the fact that casting another spell ends it prematurely. Still, I’d be weary of letting it fall into the hands of a good min-maxer.
Editing and formatting are, on a formal level, good if you can look past the formatting convention deviations. On a rules-language level, the pdf attempts highly complex modifications and often succeeds rather admirably in conveying the intent. The verbiage is a bit rough, but considering that this is an early work, it is impressive. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series, is pretty printer-friendly, and we don’t get interior artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Christen N. Sowards’ early design-offerings frankly prove to be much more enjoyable than I thought they would; this Transcendent 10-installment is no different in that regard. There are some genuinely cool ideas and rules-operations here, and while Lost Spheres Publishing’s current releases are much more refined, this already has several components that I’d consider more interesting than whole spell-pdfs of thrice the size. In short, if you can live with the minor rough edges, then this has some creative and interesting design-work that can inspire and provide some cool tricks to develop, tweak, etc. For the low asking price, this is worth taking a look at. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, courtesy of the rough patches and age of the pdf. I will still round up due to in dubio pro reo, though, as this holds up better than it honestly has a right to after all this time. If anything, the Transcendent 10 spell installments are a great way to show what could have been done with spellcasting on a large scale, instead of just substituting a shape and energy type for the oomphteenth fireball clone. I really wish that the ambition and design-paradigms of the series find more traction. If anything, I hope that a few designers out there take a look and think about what spells could be.
You can get these genuinely INTERESTING, if not perfect spells here on OBS!