By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Dreadfox Gamesis 37 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 34 pages of content chock-full of new necromancy-spells, so let’s take a look at them!
The pdf kicks off with extensive spell-lists for all the classes, including the Magus and then elves into a vast selection of different necromantic spells for your perusal. The spells per se are interesting and provide some unconventional mechanics – “Bloody Epidemic” e.g. inflicts a bloody cough on foes that deals damage and potentially is infectious and “Dark Command” lets you issue commands to undead. One of the more interesting spells, dead palate, provides the options to resist detrimental conditions imposes by stench and even magical effects for a round at the cost of making the subject more susceptible to the spell after the round of immunity. Unfortunately, there are some minor inconsistencies: The 9th level spell “Death’s Burden”, curses a foe with a death curse – after getting 100 HP damage in a single round, the recipient has to save each time he/she/it takes damage or die. Unfortunately, the spell does not specify whether one has to save against the spell’s regular DC or the accumulated damage over the 100-threshold. Even if the latter is true, the general usability is rather slim, especially for a 9th-level spell. The circumstances under which this spell’s effects get activated are rather obscure and make this a singularly bad choice for a 9th-level spell.
The more…strange spells include “Decrepitate”, a 1st level spell that halves carrying capacity for 2 hours/level. Interesting as a basis for dark auras of haunted places. “Defiler’s Talisman” makes for another interesting last-second save option for villains everywhere – temporarily housing the soul in a blood-filled talisman, including the option of magic jarring foes. There of course are also debuffing spells, but those herein actually provide some interesting effects – “Fragile Body” forces the recipient to fall down prone every time he is hit and the damage exceeds a certain, quite low threshold. I love the idea, but personally, I’d have solved it via a CMD/CMB-mechanic, but that’s just a personal preference. “Grating Joints” is a smart and versatile debuff that offers 4 different types of options and makes for neat customizations depending on which part of the enemy you want to afflict. “Kiss of Death” is another interesting spell – at 7th level it offers neither saving throw, nor spell resistance but has to be delivered via a kiss. Unfortunately, the spell fails to specify whether it can be used in combat. I assume it can be, but if so, we’re lacking mechanics for delivering kisses in combat. If possible at all, the modifications to CMB should have been included – depending on how it is handled, this spell could otherwise prove to be unbalancing – personally, I’d include a paragraph stating that it can’t be used in combat, and even then, enterprising players will find some way to make deadly use of this. A truly awesome spell would be “Necrotic Gyre” – cut yourself, smear blood on a map and the blood pools in areas according to the strength of necromantic energies and even identify particular effects.
A godsend for evil casters and necromancers, negative energy attunement lets them be healed via negative energy, but without making them susceptible to positive energy. “Resist negative energy” is another smart one that does exactly what you’d expect and thus fills a neat niche. The communal version features a typo and mentions something about “dividing the duration in intervals between the weapons touched”, when the recipients of the spell are supposed to be creatures. “Revenant Sense” is a spell that is overpowered as hell – it lets you smell whether a target has killed in the last 12 months, even determining whether they killed in self-defense, murder, etc. and even determine approximate figures. While smelling murder may make you attack the murderer, the fact that the range is 120 ft., the spell lasts for 1 min/level and is rather precise means that this 1st level spell has the potential to wreck many an investigation plot.
On the other hand “Secrets to Rest” is a GODSEND of a spell, permanently inhibiting ancestral communication with the dead and speak with the dead-spells. Two thumbs up and “Hell yeah”! “Sepulchral Air”, while powerful, is another great spell that makes verbal communication impossible, impedes casting (but less so that of necromancy). Neat idea! “Still Veins” with its 3 iterations is also great – you get temporary immunities as if you were undead, but suffer minor attribute damage the first time you’re damaged each round. Smart spell and very interesting for deadly areas and beyond most necromancy spells.
There are also several risky spells to call spirits into your body and there is even a way to restore undeath to a destroyed undead creature, which is awesome. And then there’s “Undying Resolve”- a last stand spell for the witch: If you’re facing a TPK at the final battle of the campaign, this spell enables you to raise allies in 40 ft. burst to fight for one last round. Unspeakable is another curse with awesome story-telling potential – it permanently makes the name of a foe unspeakable, cursing all who utter it with severe calamities. AWESOME concept!
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed some minor glitches. Layout adheres to Dreadfox Games’ two-column, thorny-bordered standard. The pdf comes with full bookmarks and no artworks. Oh boy, this one is hard to rate – on the one hand, we get several spells that are ingenious, awesome and ooze coolness. On the other hand, several of the spells feel like they can use additional clarification and could have been written more concisely. I mentioned some examples of spells that could use a rephrasing/explanation and combined with the lack of artwork/price point, the minor problems accumulate to a point, where I wholeheartedly recommend parts of the pdf, but advise against flat-out allowing the whole pdf without very close scrutiny – some of the spells can be considered rather broken, at least in my opinion. Usually, I would harp and bash on the pdf for that, but the spells that rock, rock so damn hard that I can’t bring myself to rate this pdf lower – there’s a lot of great potential here. In the end, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars – some great content, some not so great content and in the end, the pdf might be awesome for you, though not unanimously so.
Grimoire Mortalitas is available from: