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.