Transmuter: the Core Specialist Wizard is another in the sequence of converting each of the various specialist wizards into its own core class. As usual, the layout is clear and the art is functional.
It begins with seven feats, two of which apply to alchemy, and including Forbidden Lore (a necessary evil until all of these classes are collected) and the transmuter?s version of specialist familiar. The only feat which might cause concern is Retain Component which allows a transmuter to keep material components from being consumed by a spell with a successful skill check. At first blush it looks very powerful, but it should only cause problems in a money poor campaign.
The transmuter base class itself is interesting, adapting the specialist wizard as always. The transmuter loses the ability to cast an extra school spell, but gains 4 + Int skills, a different level distribution of bonus feats (but still receives five), and some very nice special abilities. Starting with component substitution which allows them to transmute spell components as needed from an item of a great value (with a monetary cap based on level). Need diamond dust for that stoneskin? Transmute that pearl necklace. Very nice and it plays to the theme well. My worry is that the special abilities that the transmuter gains, first at 10th level with additional abilities at 14th, 17th and 20th level. One or two of these are potentially unbalancing, especially the one that gives the ability to convert a transmutation spell known as an innate ability usable once a day. A DM will have to be careful with which of these special abilities allowed. I would place the transmuter base class slightly ahead of a transmuter specialist because of the more flexible bonus feats and the special abilities at higher levels.
There are two prestige classes: Fury, a barbarian/transmuter-hybrid, which focuses on literally changing the character into a living weapon. The class is interesting, but the abilities do not interlock as nicely as one might hope. Oddly, the Fury is a 10-level prestige class, yet it cannot be taken before 11th level, an alternate set of entry requirement to allow a character to take it at 7th or 8th level would be useful. The Morph Mage is a shapeshifting prestige class, trading spells for enhanced abilities to adopt new shapes. This is an interesting take on the shapeshifting wizard, but it not available before 10th level as it keys off of one of the transmuter classes? special abilities.
There are two new transmutation themed magic items, the Ever-Weapon, which can shift from weapon to weapon, and the Casket of Change, which transmutes items into . . . other items of equivalent value (a fence?s dream). Lastly, there are five new alchemical items, which seem good except the aftereffect of quickening juice is going to be a killer.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Nice extrapolation of transmutation effects.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Possible balance issues at higher levels.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>
[4 of 5 Stars!]