It’s funny to think about now, but I almost didn’t review this product because it didn’t have a cohesive theme (beyond the obvious one of “new spells”). A book with a central theme is one that’s easily reviewed – just examine how well it covers its main idea, and that’s the review. Does it ignore some central concepts? Does it only give sparse coverage to some interesting aspects? It’s easy to use questions such as these to develop a yardstick to judge a book by.
I couldn’t do that with Archives of Maere: Spells, however, because the spells presented in this book don’t have a central theme. Luckily, there was another commonality that I could focus on: these spells were all well done.
Having just over forty spells which appear on all spell lists and run the gamut from levels 0 through 9, Archives of Maere: Spells covers some impressive ground. I’ve often heard that it’s hard to come up with original spells, and that’s certainly true, but all of the ones here seemed innovative. For example, there were clear and concise effects for a spell that strengthened gravity, and another that weakened gravity. Some covered specific niches that existing spells had ignored before now (e.g. symbol of life, used to damage undead), while others were entirely new (e.g. phantom itch, where the target feels itchy all over). Some were combat spells (fiery scourge, creating a whip of flames) while others seemed almost comical in their application (intoxicate, which makes someone drunk). The only overarching theme here was the lack of a theme. It’s worth noting that I did spot the rare error in some spell descriptions – in the aforementioned spell to increase gravity, for example (in what seemed like a copy-and-paste error) decreased falling damage, the same as for the decrease gravity spell. Still, errors like these were very rare, and most of the spells were top-notch.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t I wished were different. For example, the pages all had very ornate borders that were centered at each corner, which was cool; however, the backgrounds of each page had very light grey faded images (too faded for me to be able to tell exactly what they were) that seemed to “splotch” against the white of the page. It was rather distracting, particularly when behind text. Moreover, there were no spell lists to easily breakdown what classes got what new spells at what levels. That’s an extra that would have been easily implemented here. Still, I can’t fault the book’s technical presentation too much, as it had full bookmarks and a hyperlinked table of contents.
Overall, I quite liked the new spells introduces in Archives of Maere. They presented a great grab-bag of new spells in virtually every regard. I do wish the book had presented a cleaner background, and class spell lists, but beyond that it did quite well for what it offered. If you’re looking to round out the spell selection in your Pathfinder game, take a trip to the Archives.