Book of Magic – Signature Spells I
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Jon Brazer Enterprises is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 8 pages for the signature spells.
After 3 pages of spell-lists, providing lists for classes like Magus, Alchemist, etc. (NICE!) as well as the basic core classes, we are introduced to the selection of new spells herein. If I have not miscounted, we get 31 new spells, several of which are supposed to be signature spells or certain legendary mages. I really like that premise, as e.g. Bigby’s hands will always have fond adherents among my players, as do the Tenser, Rary, Otiluke etc. spells – being a certain mage’s work and carrying their distinct style makes them stand out amidst the flood of magic available.
That being said, signature spells need to go beyond just providing benefits – they have to fit a certain theme and feature an iconic quality – so, how do they stand up?
To be frank, the first three spells of this pdf did not excite me: They belong to a set of 4 spells that provide DR 5/alignment. Boring. Brick Wall’s Fortitude provides a scaling bonus to fort saves. Not exciting either. There are also similar spells for reflex and will saves. Gaining Dragon Scales (DR, natural armour and associated resistance) is another spell I don’t need. There are also two spells to cover one’s scent, which I consider useful but not iconic per se.
Fortunately, Halican’s 4 spells were up next – they deal with ships, repairing them or creating a hydraulic water burst – now we’re talking! These water-related spells fit a characteristic niche, provide neat ideas and follow them. Leighanna’s 3 spells, primarily dealing with subtle tactical advances and manipulations also offer some cool options like forcing foes to delay actions – again, neat!
After that, though, we once again get spells that are rather bland – greater variants of mage armour. Riyal’s three spells are low-level defensive magic and Rostov’s snake themed spells felt nice – though the Snake Strike is overpowered: A level 2 spell that grants an attack action to the creature touched at its highest attack bonus against a target, essentially enabling you to hit via your buddy. Ouch.
Shallan’s 4 spells deal with shadows – shadow walls, an area-of-effect enfeeblement attack (10 ft. burst) and a cha-leeching ray sorcerers and other cha-based casters will hate.
The pdf closes with a spell to summon dwarven armor and a wall of leaves.
Users of Herolab should rejoice, for the pdf comes with a .hl-file – great additional support!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to a very printer-friendly, easy-to-read 2-column standard and I really like the covers – I did not like the layout-decision to print the sub-header on the front cover in a rather bland, standard font, though. It somewhat impedes the coolness of the otherwise neat cover. The 2 pieces of b/w-artwork are nice. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and I’ve already mentioned the herolab support, another plus. Oh boy. It’s been quite I while since I was so conflicted about a pdf.
On the one hand, the new spells by mages and their thematic link is neat, as is the support for all the classes. On the other hand, several of the spells are the complete opposite to signature spells, being the epitome of blandness. The “alignment-body” spells and the + x to save spells are terribly uncreative and feel like filler at best. Call me cynical, but they just didn’t do it for me. Which is a damn pity: Hallican’s, Leighanna’s and Riyal’s spells felt VERY interesting, iconic and cool to me, making only more apparent that author Dale C. McCoy Jr. CAN write excellent spells. Moreover, none of the spells really felt completely out of line, striking a nice balance between innovation and power. Let me be frank: This pdf contains some of my new favourite spells. However, it also contains some of my new least favourite spells. The aim of providing signature spells has been partially fulfilled and were I to voice a request, I’d ask for flavour text (spinning little stories around the spells or their creators)as well as getting rid of filler spells in future instalments. Improved versions of Mage Armour belong to a book on spell variants, not in one on signature spells.
Unfortunately, not all spells in this pdf belong to the category of kicking ass and taking names unique spells. You should just be aware that not all spells herein are killer or signature spells. The pdf is very affordable, though, and comes with Herolab-support, which somewhat offsets the relatively low amount of content when compared to other spell-centric pdfs. In the end, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform – if you’re in it for some cool spells, you won’t regret the purchase.