By Thilo Graf
This book from Necromancers of the Northwest is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving 29 pages of content.
Due to staves containing several spells and these ones also having additional qualities, I’m breaking my usual format for this review and review the staves according to groups they belong to. The staves herein range in price from a modest 2090 Gp to 265000 Gp.
All the staves come with costs to create, requirements, prices etc. and at least a short physical description.
The first group of staves we are introduced to are the Gemstaves:
Gemstaves are powered not by the usual charges, but rather by spellgems, which are their own magic items (some of which with nice properties) and can be added to the respective staff. When venturing into a dungeon or the wild, PCs can thus carry spare gems with them to power their staves, greatly enhancing their usability. We get 16 gemstaves and 10 different spellgems for them, from unstable ones that could explode to chaotic ones and a fire-themed one, this new class of items will see some use in my game.
The next group of staves I’ll call Journeyman’s/Master’s staves. We get one Journeyman’s Staff and one Master’s Staff for each of the schools of magic. Journeyman’s staves usually feature 4 spells they can cast. They can be recharged better by expending spells of the school the staff is aligned with – 2 charges are restored instead of one. Additionally, by expending a charge after identifying a spell of the given school being cast, they can counter the spell. Great tools to make for Wizard duels. Master’s Staves are also aligned with the schools and can hold up to nine spells. Hold spells? Yep, you can actually change the spells they hold. Casting them via the staff takes 1/3 of the spell-level in charges. Master’s Staves also increase the DC of spells of the respective school cast by the wielder by one, stacking with Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus.
Finally, there are what I call theme-staves, i.e. staves that follow a certain theme of spells and always have some additional kind of quality that is useful beyond combat. Some can be broken for a retributive strike, which I always considered a cool idea. Due to the fact that they are a lot of ground to cover and a lot of abilities to write up, I’ll keep it short and sweet: I liked most of them, although some abilities felt a bit strong. None outright op, though.
The pdf is extensively bookmarked, the artwork for the staves is all right, editing is ok ( I noticed two glitches) and layout adheres to the NWN-standard. Which unfortunately once again means that we don’t get a printer-friendly version but rather the used-parchment look. With regards to the crunch presented, I can’t complain: The staves are imaginative, cool and the new classes of staves make them iconic and viable options for both PCs and villains. I especially liked the concept of spellgems and hope it will be expanded upon in the future. That being said, I’ll refrain from going all out and giving this a 5-star rating. Why? Because I feel the pdf lacks a unique staff, history, hooks or even suggestions on roleplaying elements like e.g. treant-wood in the constructions of the staves. The crunch-part of this book is great, but there is next to no fluff and thus, this little extra awesomeness that makes a good buy an outstanding buy is missing. That being said, 4 stars is still a great rating. If you want cooler staves, check this out!
The Ebon Vault–Secrets of the Staff is available from: