It’s a kind of magic… or 8
DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.
Introduction: As a player, I have never liked wizards. Apart from the evoker, they lack that visceral, war-like appeal that melee-ers have. However, I always appreciate having a wizard in my parties, since they are the strongest class that doesn’t have a roleplaying requirement (I’m watching you two, CODzilla). Will this book make me change my mind to finally play a wizard? Let’s see!
25 pages of content for 7 bucks (not bad), which include:
-8 Variant Classes of the wizard… Wait, what? If you don’t know, or remember, what a variant class is, think about the rogue/ninja or the knight/samurai… they are basically the same classes but re-flavored and tailored to portrait a specific character concept. Here, each of the 8 variant classes represent a wizard that has embraced a specific aspect of one of the schools of magic. All specialist share some similarities: they all have good Will save, 2 skillpoints per level, have access to 3 schools of magic plus universal (their specialty plus two more already chosen, one almost always being alteration), and can cast an extra spell of each level from their specialty. Where they differ is in the HD/BAB progression (some have d8/medium), saves, and weapon and armor proficiencies. Also, each class includes DIFFERENT favored class bonuses for each of the core classes! Also worth mentioning, some abilities scale not with class level, but with maximum spell level available… which is great for people who want to take a prestige class!
Abjurers are defense specialists, having good Fort saves (also getting the Mettle ability), access to progressively better armored casting, and can even add their INT bonus to their HP instead of their CON. They bond with a buckler (which later can be a small and even a large shield), getting some nifty abilities in the deal and can even STACK their shield bonuses from the item with the one gotten from spells like shield! They also get better at dispelling and can “feed” spell slots to spells already cast so they continue working after their normal duration. Overall cool tank-y wizards.
Conjurers are monster summoning specialists, getting access to some of the summoner’s spells plus the summon nature’s ally line of spells. They also can cast summonings as standard actions, and the spells last for 1 minute per level. They can also add summoning spells to their repertoire from any class spell list, or can get feats that each summoned critter will have. They also get bonus feats, starting with Augment Summoning and later choosing from its line of feats. Powerful masters of summoning spells.
Diviners get the higher HD/BAB treatment, plus good reflex saves. They get uncanny dodge and evasion, plus their improved versions later (though IMHO they get evasion too late in their progressions). They are also difficult to surprise, getting the ability to always act in a surprise round plus an initiative bonus that increases over their careers (this ability is called differently in the class table and description). They also get an ability to detect weakness, which sadly cannot be shared with allies (bummer). Finally, unless there is a typo, Diviners get TWO BONUS SPELLS PER LEVEL! Of course, they must be divinations, but, I don’t know. Interesting masters of gaining knowledge, never caught unaware.
Enchanters are master of both magical and skill-based manipulation, getting free ranks in both Bluff and Diplomacy, plus a class-based bonus to both. Like summoners, they can also give some extra abilities to creatures under their spells. They also get some defensive abilities, able to daze attackers and also getting a save each round (up to charisma bonus) against mind-affecting abilities when failing the initial saving throw. Finally, at 14th level, they can remove the mind-affecting component of compulsions! Enchantment’s greatest weakness! Powerful masters of manipulation that can get rid of the school’s greatest downside, albeit at a high level. One of my favorite classes in the book.
Evokers are combat wizards. They also get improved HD/BAB, plus improved proficiencies. Right of the bat, they get to add INT bonus to damage to each target of their spells… for example, a burning hands spell would add it to the total damage, but a magic missile would only add it once… unless targeting different foes with each missile (great for dipping). They can also attune to one of the 4 elemental energies when preparing their spells, and become able to change any energy-based evocation to their attuned energy, and can charge their melee attacks with that type too a couple of times per day. They get some bonus feat (the vital strike feat chain plus some bonus combat or teamwork feats). They also get the munchkin wet dream as a capstone: Instant maximize a couple of times per day (max Metor Swarm anyone?). A great combat wizard that steps a little into the magus shoes.
Illusionists are the furtive wizards. They get access to one more school than the other specialists, and get better at discerning traps and disguises; their illusions are simply better at resisting magical dispelling or countering, like with divination spells, and get some blurring effects that start with a blur-like effect when moving and culminating in being immune to true strike, scrying and other divinations! However, for me, their best ability is something akin to sneak attack, but for spells. Finally, a good representation of one of the hardest school specialists to play.
Necromancers get a pet undead LOL! Sadly, one of the most popular specializations receives, IMHO, the least interesting specialization. They get an eidolon-like pet complete with evolutions (awesomely called corpse-stitch augmentations), AND channel negative energy regardless of alignment. Having a powerful Frankenstain monster is beyond cool, but the class doesn’t even have a cap. Cool and effective if a bit unimaginative.
Transmuters are masters of change. Their alterations last longer and are difficult to resist when the caster is under a transmutation spell (cool), and can spend spell slots to add metamagic to transmutations on the fly or to extend their durations. Finally, they can transmute spells themselves, able to change prepared spells to any other in their spellbooks! Their cap let them change choices normally made at the casting of the spell… Imagine using form of the dragon to become a red one, and just in the next round you change to white! Interesting take on transmutation specialists.
Of Note: The sheer amount of variants for ONE class is astounding, and the flavor and focus of each one is different and the variety is such that you could play a party of wizards and STILL have a viable party… except for healing… unless all characters are healed by negative energy and the Necromancer is a healer LOL.
Anything wrong?: While each school of magic has it’s foci, these specialists only focus in one. You cannot play a fear based necromancer, or a non-summoning conjuration master (I would have loved to summon creatures for specific purposes, or for one big attack, having a cost to distance it from evocation). Also, even with their choose-able class features, they are so focused that once you play one, unless you are a school loyalist, you would rarely want to play another character with the same class.
What I want: In 2nd edition DnD, there were some non-standard schools of magic, like shadow and elemental. I would love to see a sequel reviving those schools!
What cool things did this inspire?: As I mentioned, I don’t play wizards. However, as a GM, I would love to unleash a necromancer that has a Nemesis-like zombie (from the Resident Evil franchise), or a diviner, enchanter or illusionist that is always messing the party’s plans.
Do I recommend it?: If you are reading this, it’s because you are interested in specialist wizards. If you are, I can’t NOT recommend it. The variety it brings to the base class will make each party’s mage unique. I will give this book a solid 4.5, rounded up.