Opening, as with the other books in this series, with a letter to a now-quite-senior student at the Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft, where he is about to enter his fifth year and now needs to choose a senior mage to whom he will apprentice. In stressing the importance of choosing a mentor wisely, there's an interesting glimpse into mage society - it's quite like the real-world academic society that I inhabit! The author also warns that some of the spells in this volume are 'unruly' if not downright dangerous.
Next we hear from Kabaz Anvitz, putative author of this tome. He states that magic is a tricky subject, that for every answer you get two more questions arise, that even after a lifetime of study there are things that still elude him totally. He then raises the question: is magic in some way alive? An idea that is widely discredited in academic circles yet... he cites research that suggests otherwise. Certainly a matter which could be disputed at length within academia, and perhaps by scholarly mages in your campaign world too.
Next, stepping out of character, the introduction identifies the core question of this volume as being "What would a spell with a mind of its own look like?" Magic is generally represented as either a scientific process, cause and effect studied and understood, or as a primal force that is cajoled and manipulated, with the first being more common in role-playing games as it's easier to write rules for! But a lot of the... well, MAGIC is lost if you get too scientific in your approach. The spells herein are an attempt to regain some of the feeling of wonder about spell-casting, even if they still abide by the rules. There are various different methods employed, including Patron spells (for those whose magic comes from an outside source, clerics and the like), Automatic spells (which go off apparently at random without the caster having much control), Capricious spells with random effects based on a Spellcraft check made when they are cast, Interactive spells which the caster can attempt to modify after he's cast them, and Unsafe spells - which have a tendency to get out of hand. Plenty to conjure with here!
After outlining and explaining the rules mechanics necessary for these new spells to operate within the game and notes on various ways of handling an influx of new spells into your campaign, we move on to spell lists (by caster type) and the detailed spell descriptions of over an hundred new spells. As always, just reading through them spawns plenty of ideas for their use... and they make for fun reading as well.
After the spells, there are four appendices. To start with, some new feats designed to be used by those who would cast the spells presented in this tome. Next come familiar traits, a new mechanic for giving your familiar assorted beneficial, mixed or awkward traits - each has a points value and the sum of your picks must equal zero. Then come notes on sentient spells - neutral outsiders whose abilities and personalities are based on a specific spell, literally a spell come to life. Wierd... but with potential. Finally there are biographical details (and game statistics) for various luminaries of the magical world - who knows, maybe one of these will turn up to discuss the nature of magic with your party wizard.
Overall, another collection of thought-provoking spells, these ones with considerable potential to cause havoc on your tabletop. Enjoy...
Return to Advanced Arcana V page.
Reviewed: 30 July 2016