Arcane magic is one of the most popular, flexible, and influential components of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Arcane spells immediately call to mind some of the most iconic elements of fantasy stories. Characters flying through the air, chucking bolts of lightening at their foes, and deflecting dragon’s breath with mystic shields are fun and memorable parts of high-magic games. Even in more low-key settings, characters are often summoning light, sensing magical auras, and enhancing their natural abilities with softly muttered spells. Arcane spells are the tools used in most campaigns to represent the world’s magic of combat, research, and wards of defense. A great deal of the sense of the fantastic in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game comes from arcane magic.
Fantasy stories are also full of rogues who once trained with master wizards and retain a bit of that knowledge, bored swordsmen who happen to have vast resources available if they call on ancient pacts, wondrous magisters able to access many forms of magic, and semi-competent sorcerers with powers they barely understand and have trouble controlling. These characters can be built, at least sometimes, with the multiclassing rules and prestige classes, but such efforts often feel awkward and the mechanics may not make sense when a character’s entire backstory is taken into account. Of course in any core rulebook there is a limit to the number of character options that can be presented, and many players quickly crave more flexibility.
The Genius Guide to Arcane Archetypes provides the material necessary to give spellcasting classes new forms of arcane magic or to add arcane power to classes that normally lack it. It does this through the use of archetype packages—a way to remove a set of related class abilities normally included in a base class and replace them with new powers (in this case, tied to arcane magic). These archetype packages can change how magic works for a character (as you’ll see with the Sigil Mage and Shadow Master archetypes) or add an element of arcane spellcasting to a character that normally lacks it (with archetypes such as the Hedge Wizard and Warder).
This pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page SRD and credits, 2/3 of a page front cover, leaving 14 1/3 pages of content for new arcane archetypes, so let’s take a look at what we get!
The pdf begins with an introduction to what archetypes are and how to use the information presented herein. Due to the nature of arcane magic and its significant prowess, some of the archetypes herein come with restrictions, which are also elaborated upon: Essentially, some can only be taken by castes and some only by non-casters. Simple, coherent and elegant in its presentation. What are the archetypes we get?
First we are introduced to quite a shock: The acolyte is an archetype that gets limited spellcasting, true, but not arcane one. Rather it represents a minor access to divine powers, enabling the character to cast up to 4th-level spells. An interesting archetype that does deal wit arcane magic and which I’ve been looking for ages, is the Hedge Wizard, a arcane caster who can cast up to 6th-level spells, but only learns a very limited amount of them and thus, self-taught and not a true specialist, seeks to work with what he’s got and improve upon these limited spells. Finally those borderland/bandit wizards get a fitting representation. The Initiate is for druidism what the acolyte is for clerical magic, so you get pretty much what you’d expect, including minor druidic abilities like animal empathy. Once again, aptly-designed, elegant and easy to implement. The minstrel uses a similar mechanic for bardic casting with the notable exception of being non-spontaneous and INT-dependant with regards to casting.
Pact Scions are one of the coolest archetype-concepts imaginable, at least to me: Being available only to non-casters, the Pact Scion has a patron/outsiders/artifacts that enable her to cast deadly magic at a price of both obedience and minor, exhausting non-lethal damage. The mechanical implementation is brilliant, enabling the DM or the player to conjure up most interesting plot-lines, character concepts etc. Fans of the Sword & Sorcery genre will rejoice when reading this anyway. The next archetype, the shadow master, focuses on spells with the [shadow]-descriptor – while mechanically sound, I considered this one to be rather boring. The next archetype is anything but bland, though: The Sigil Mage carves his spells as tattoos into his flesh and thus can use some pretty nifty tricks: Preparing casters can use sigil magic of one spell-level higher to act as a potential for two lower-level spells, essentially preparing e.g. 2 3rd level spells in a 4th level slot and choosing the spell at the time of casting. Spontaneous caster can e.g. level up 2 of their linked spells, casting them as higher level spells than they usually are. This power comes at a price, though, and critical hits and erase are your foe if you’re a sigil mage…
The spellblaze can conjure up a bolt of raw force damage that scales with levels a limited amount of times per day, making for an iconic arcane artillery while avoiding making regular ranged weapons obsolete. The final archetype presented is the warder, a noncaster archetype who centers around negating hostile magic via sorcerous counterspells. These guys will see a lot of use associated with the henchmen of my NPC-inquisitors.
The pdf closes with an overview of archetypes and SGG-base-classes.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the clear horizontal 3 column-standard and the full-color artworks range from good to average. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks but at this length that’s no reason to detract a star. In direct comparison to the archer archetypes, we get a bit more of them, but 3 of them (minstrel, acolyte and initiate) are somewhat similar in what they do for their respective associated classes. However, their design is excellent and the Pact Scion alone, at least for me, alongside the warder is worth the low and fair price. Nevertheless I found the 3 very similar archetypes somewhat bland, especially due to taking up quite a bit of space that could have been used otherwise, perhaps in a more arcane-centric way. My final verdict for this installment will thus be 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.
The Genius Guide to: Arcane Archetypes by Otherworld Creations
The Genius Guide to: Arcane Archetypes by Otherworld Creations
This product is 16 pages long. The first 2 pages are the cover, introduction and explaining how to use the archetypes. The next page tells what the core Pathfinder class would have to give up to take one of the new Arcane Archetypes. (3 pages)
Next it gets into the new archetypes. (11 pages)
Acolyte – They gain a partial cleric spell list.
Hedge Wizard – They gain a partial arcane spell list.
Initiate – They gain a partial druid spell list.
Minstrel – They gain a partial Bard spell list.
Pact Scion – gains a partial spell list like a Sorcerer.
Shadow Master – improves their casting with shadow magic and gives them some shadow based abilities.
Sigil Mage – A wizard that tattoo's their body with their spell book, they get several benefits to many to fully explain here.
Spellblaze – call forth a arcane bolt of magical energy, a certain number of times a day.
Warder – The get a partial spell list like a Sorcerer, but can choose any abjuration spell from the Wizard or Cleric spell lists.
It closes with a page on using this product with the Super Genius classes and a final page of a OGL.
Closing thoughts. It seems well done and fairly well balanced. It allows non spell casting classes to become partial casters similar to paladins and rangers. So if you have been looking for a way to let melee classes become partial casters then you will like this product. The artwork is fair. So I am going to rate this a 4.5, love the idea but would have liked to have seen a few more variations like Spellblaze as well.