Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Complete Mage

Title: Complete Mage: A Player's Guide to All Things Arcane

Product Line: Dungeons and Dragons, d20

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

What it is

This book has expanded rules for roleplaying arcane spell casters.

It has a lot of information that will help you customize your character to fill various archetypes. It starts with a disertation on the nature of magic and the various schools. Then it describes various arcane archetypes (the roles the spelcasters can play in the party).

In the next section, the book gets into the crunchy bits with alternative class features (substitute levels for arcane and other classes) that help the character fulfill various roles. Then it gets into new feats and introduces a new type of feat: reserve feats. Reserve feats function as long as you have an uncast spell of a specific type.

The third section has prestege classes.

The forth section has new spells and warlock invocations.

The fifth section has magic items for spellcasters, alchemal items and optional material components that will give spells a little bit of a boost.

The sixth section has a number of adventure ideas, hooks and locations.

My general impression

If you need help coming up with an idea for what to do with a mage or you have an idea but don't know how to implement it within the rules, this is the book for you. It is likely that you will only be using a small portion of the book. Personally, I'm only using the warlock invocations.

The nature of magic and spell school stuff in the beginning and the arcane adventures stuff in the back held no interest to me but your milage may vary. The discussion on arcane archetypes was intersting and gave me some ideas for future characters, as did the section on alternative class features.

The feats don't interst me a lot but the reserve feats are interesting if you want to focus your mage around them. They may be slightly over powered but I haven't played with them yet so I don't really know.

I never have much use for prestige classes but the ones that intrigue me are the ones that allow you to combine classes. Those allow more choices for character types.

New spells - always good. The spells are spread across the spell levels pretty well across spell levels (with 3rd level having the most). they also have a good number of spells for other arcane classes like the wu jen.

Some of the new invocations are just nifty. If you are going for a "see everything" type of warlock, All-Seeing Eyes gives a +6 to search and Spot checks. This is good since the Warlock's Spot checks usually are pretty pitiful. It also throws in comprehend languages. Relentless Dispelling doesn't give you andy power boost or harm the target but it gives you two chances of dispelling someone's buffing spells. Swimming the Styx gives the aquatic subtype which can be handy and Steal Summoning is just wonderfull for turning a mages spell against him (it's a pity you have to wait until you can get Dark invocations).

If the magic items, the Ring of Arcane Supremacy is usefull if you keep running into pesky critters with SR as it allows you to reroll your caster check to overcome SR. The Rods of Eldrich Power help the Warlock overcome some of the limitation of the number of abilities it can have. The Rod of Magical Precision and usefull for Warlocks and other casters with ray spells. The rod of may wands just seems silly to me. Yeah, I want to burn thee slots from each of three wands just to fire all three wands at the same time. It's cheaper to hire a pair of 1st level mages to follow you around with wands.The Rod of Shadowblending is handy for illusionists and the Rod of Spell Channeling can be usefull for those who don't mind putting their familliars in harms way. The Staffs are just hyped up, expensive, wands (as usuall). If you are in a high level campaign and can make use of the caster level increase, then these will be handy. The Wonderous Items are generally usefull but none of them stand out to me.

None of the alchemal items seem to be worth the cost. Though they may be handy if found in treasure hoards.

The optional spell comonents are usefull except that they are so expensive that I feat that by the time you can afford to use them, you don't need them.

I might thumb through the adventure ideas when I'm GMing but they are so heavily weighted toward spellcasting parties that non spellcasters are given short shrift. Of this section, the list of 100 story hooks is the most usefull to me.

What Works

The spells, invocations and archetype information work for me. Some of the feats and a few of the prestege classes look usefull too.

What doesn't Work

I don't need yet another disertation on the nature of magic. The magical locations are too close to being one shot wonders. The reserve feats may be a bit too powerfull and, as usual for me, I just don't have any use for prestege classes.

Complete Arcane

Title: Complete Arcane: A Player's Guide to Arcane Magic for all Classes

Product Line: Dungeons and Dragons, d20

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

What it is

This book has expanded rules for arcane spell casters.

It introduces three new arcane classes: Warlock, Warmage, Wu Jen. It has a boatload of new prestige classes, feats, new spells, new magic items and finishes up with some campaign hints for GMs with arcane characters and for GMs running a heavily arcane campaign.

My general impression

Overall, I like this book. Somethings work for me and some don't.
  • I like the Warlock but and not too thrilled with the Warmage.

  • I've never had much use for prestige classes as a player but some of them will be usefull as a GM.
  • Some of the feats are pretty lame but, I suppose, they add flavor.

  • Why include the Dragon feats?

  • Some descriptions of the metamagic feats have changed. Be warned, Energy Substitution no longer has Sonic as an energy type.

  • The sudden metamagic feats are pretty nifty.

  • The spells are usefull but there aren't any really compelling spells in the list Though Resist Energy, Mass might be an exception.

  • The expanded Spellbook construction rules can be handy.

  • None of the magic items are particularly compelling to me.

  • The creatures are nice bit, again, not really compelling.

  • I suppose that the Arcane Campaigns sections might be usefull for a new GM.

  • It does discuss how to deal with some problematic spell abilities: charms, flying, invisibility, scrying, and teleportation.

  • Spell Duels: Eh. I suppose that this could work.

  • The Epic rules for the new classes are handy if the campaign gets anywhere near that level of power.
What Works

I like the Warlock. It seems to be well a balanced alternative. I've gotten one to 5th level in one campaign and it is a good fire support and special opps character (with the charisma and bluff skill, the character can take a rogue or bard's role in social encounters). You should do everything you can to increase the character's chance to hit with his ranged touch attack and stay out of melee.

What doesn't Work

The warmage is problematic. It is too focused for most campaigns. In most noncombat encounters, the character waits on the sidelines. In combat, the GM must stock extra creatures to soak up the huge amount of spell damage the character can dish out. The expanded learning class ability is not that usefull, every few levels you can ad one arcane Invocation spell to your spell list. The trouble is that there aren't many invocations that aren't already on the warmage's spell list. I suppose that abiltiy will become more useful in congunction with the Spell Compendium.

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