Monday, December 20, 2010

Augury - Advanced Arcana Vol. 1

Advanced Arcana – Volume I is a PFRPG sourcebook written by Alex Riggs, Joshua Zaback and Justin Holloway from Necromancers of the Northwest. The PDF of 59 pages is a collection of new spells, cleric domains, sorcerer bloodlines and all things magical. Even taking into account that Pathfinder is relatively new, we’ve by now a good number of electronic products full of new spells and material for spellcasters. It a saturated market, but one that once in a while gives you good surprises.

Advanced Arcana opens with letters written by the arcane tome’s author. This kind of approach is rather risky from an unknown publisher, in part because these fictions are rarely good (and also because they consume a fair amount of space). Personally I find most of them tedious. Unfortunately, in this point, Advanced Arcana is not an exception. But, if you survive through these pages, you reach the good stuff.

The first rule that sets AA apart are segment spells. Representing magic of a higher and more powerful order, segment spells require multiple slots to be casted. These slots must be of appropriate level, but different spellcasters can join forces to cast a segment spell quicker. This rule represent in a very simple way the kind of magic that we traditionally see in fantasy literature (like the classical summoning of powerful demons and servants).

Other two great selling points of AA. First, we have spells for the new base classes of the Advanced Player’s Guide, which is an excellent way of consolidating them. Second, there are almost no spells about dealing damage as a main effect. One of the things that really annoys me about D&D 3rd Edition (and Pathfinder) is the way that it appears to simulate video games’ magic – in the end all we have are massive lists of spells that just deal damage in different ways. Sometimes spellcasters are just the medieval counterpart to modern artillery. I was enjoyed more weird and picaresque spells like rope trick, floating disk, the various illusions and polymorphs. Most of AA’s spells are more complex and weird, with many being dedicated to affect other spells.

The PDF’s appendixes brings new cleric domains (like shadow, sleep and prophecy); four new sorcerer bloodlines – one for each genie race (curiously, AA has a “Dao bloodline”, where Pathfinder’s earth genies are called the shaitans); new focused wizard schools (a new rule from the Advanced Player’s Guide).

The final appendix has new familiars, with some really weird (but mechanically sounding) options like animated objects, skeletons and the already infamous bonsai tree (the funny part is that most of my players want one).

Advanced Arcana – Volume I uses a papyrus background with a simple layout. The PDF’s art goes from medium to bad, but the creative and original game material more than make up for that. The price is excellent and I hope we can see more Volumes from the guys of Necromancers of the Northwest.