The magus class represents a trope common in fantasy fiction—the warrior-mage able to swing swords and cast spells with equal skill. From classic sword-and-sorcery wielders such as Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné, to the protagonists of more modern fantasy tales such as Garion from David Edding's Belgariad series or Rand al'Thor from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, the warrior-mages are a common archetype often more easily found in fiction than the sage spellcasters with little combat skill. Even Gandalf, perhaps the prototypical adventuring mage, carried the sword Glamdring and knew how to use it to good effect!
Despite this broad popularity, the concept can be difficult to easily implement using only the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. While it's possible to multiclass combat-oriented and arcane-oriented classes, and prestige classes such as the eldritch knight are designed to make such combinations fairly effective, the planning and delayed gratification such character builds require are not satisfying to everyone. With the advent of the magus class from Ultimate Magic, players wishing to create a warrior-mage can do so by choosing a single class that combines fair martial ability with good spellcasting ability and a host of class abilities that allow the magus to combine combat and casting in ways other classes can't.
Of course, the traditions of arcane armsmen require much more support than any single book has room to offer, especially since most game supplements have to appeal to a broad range of interests. Ultimate Magic lacks room to present many alternate magus options, and what few it does present focus solely on the narrow concept of a combat spellcaster with a weapon in one hand and only a prepared spell in the other.
To help in that regard, Ultimate Options: New Magus Arcana presents 30 new magus arcana and three sets of alternate abilities designed to work with the new batch of magus arcana options. With this broad set of new material magi can fight with 2-handed weapons, go sword-and-board with a shield, wield two weapons and still cast spells, or even become a spontaneous spellcaster similar to a sorcerer.
This pdf is 7 pages long, 2/3 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 5 1/3 pages of content for more arcane-options for the magus-class, let’s check them out!
The new arcana options (and there are 31 if I didn’t miscount) are interesting: For those of you irked by the Magus being focused on one-handed weapons, the 3 enrune dagger/great weapon/shield arcanas and their greater successors enable you to temporarily carve a rune on said weapons, enabling you to cast spells with somatic components while wielding the respective piece of equipment. This opens up a whole plethora of new fighting styles and options, which is of course, nice. Warding and enduring warding enable the Magus to somewhat lessen his fragile nature and spontaneously grant his armor temporary boosts in AC and armor qualities. There was one arcane I has a problem with, that being Wand Lord: It lets you add +2 to a wand’s caster-level per point of arcane used, up to a maximum of the Magus’ level. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize the potential of this ability to be horribly abused or even impede the fun of The Magus-player: After all, it might be wise to conserve all the arcane for one deadly blast that is almost guaranteed to overcome SR… It’s kind of nice to use arcane to scavenge spells from the bard and the witch, though: These blending arcanas were nice ideas.
The second part of the pdf offers us 4 new archetypes for the Magus: The Arcana Lord can cannibalize spells into arcane pool points. The Cabalist learns spells as a bard and gets access to bloodline powers at higher levels. The Magavan is supposed to be a court-based Magus who can sense surface thoughts by striking foes. I didn’t care for this particular archetype, as the one signature ability is rather bland and offers only surface thoughts. The most interesting one of the archetypes, the Tovenaar, sacrifices the spellcasting of the magus for an access to inquisitions, but unfortunately his signature ability is just plain over-powered: Mystic Combat enables him to make a full attack and use a supernatural or spell-like ability from an inquisition in the same round. This is so wide open for abuse, I don’t even know where to start and another fine example of Magus-related power-creep that should be carefully monitored. Thus, as written, I consider the Tovenaar broken, which is a pity: Replace this plain-op ability with more, but less powerful abilities and we would have been in for a treat. Oh well.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column full-color SGG standard. There are no bookmarks. While I didn’t have any problems with most of the arcanas, I wasn’t blown out of the water either by any of them. Not once did I yell “Eureka” and while the humble arcanas are nice, they lack the spark of genius. The archetypes are hit and miss: The Arcana Lord and the Cabalist felt balanced and cool to me, but the Magavan is just a very bland archetype and feels like boring filler, offering 1 quite bland ability and selling it as an archetype. The Tovenaar, as I’ve just elaborated upon, will not feature in my game, as full attack+magic is broken in my book and by far too wide open for abuse. Don’t get me wrong, this pdf is not bad per se, but all in all, I was rather underwhelmed and not once was surprised or blown away.
My final verdict due to the subpar 2 archetypes and the rather bland arcanas, 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform.
Ultimate Options: New Magus Arcana by Super Genius Games
This product is 7 pages long. It starts with a cover and forward. (1 pages)
New Magus Arcana (3 pages)
This section has new Arcana.
Arcane Critical – gain arcane points on crits.
Arcane Focus – reduces the penalty to attack rolls when casting in combat.
Critical Spell – can make a free melee attack when a spell scores a critical
Elemental Assault – imbues herself with spell of same name.
Enduring Arcane – makes bonuses to weapons last longer
Enduring Warding – makes bonuses to armor last longer
Enruned Dagger – can place a rune on a light weapon that can be used in place of a somatic part of casting.
Enruned Great Weapon – same as dagger but works on two handed weapons.
Enruned Shield – same as enruned dagger.
Force Magic Device – gain bonus to UMD skill.
Greater versions of Enduring Arcane, Warding, Enruned Dagger, Greater Weapon and Shield. Better versions of the same abilities.
Harmonic Blending – can add some bard spells to her list.
Heroic Assault – can get benefits of heroism spell.
Imbue Spell – can in short cast a spell not memorized. It says can cast a spell of equal level or higher level as the one used to imbue. I am guessing that is suppose to equal or lower level.
Invisible Assault – become invis for a bit.
Jinx Blending – can add witch spells to her list.
Mounted Assault – summons a phantom stead and Magus starts mounted... weird but neat.
Piercing Strike – gains a bonus to overcome SR
Protected Assault – as a swift action can gets benefits like from protection from evil etc.
Resistant Assault – can protect herself from one type of energy.
Split Arcana – when using arcane pool to add bonuses can split them between two weapons.
Staff Mastery – can use arcana that help with casting a spell to apply to magic from a staff.
Versatile Combatant – gain access to a feat they don't have.
Wand Lord – can make spells cast from a wand cast at a higher level.
Warding – can as a swift action enchant their armor.
Weapon Diligence – gains concentration checks with a single weapon.
New Archetypes (2 pages)
Arcane Lord – can give up spells for arcana points
Cabalist – gains spells like a bard instead and gets some bloodline powers.
Magavan – uses the bard spell list and gains lore strike.
Tovenaar – blends inquisitor with a magus.
It ends with a OGL and credits. (1 pages)
Closing thoughts. The art work is color and pretty good. Editing and layout was good. I will admit I have not heavily studied the Magus class yet so I am not sure how well the abilities with in stack up balance wise. Most of the abilities make sense and fill in niches. They are well written and seem well done and balanced against each other. But none of them really blew me away either. Most of them was... yeah ok that makes sense, or that’s kinda cool. In short just not up to the normal impressive innovative level I expect from SGG. Good, very good even, just not great. So what's my rating? I am going to settle on a 4 star review.
As this product's "blurb" says, the warrior-mage turns up far more often in fantasy fiction than he does at the gaming table. This is partly due to the tendency for most systems to focus on being either a spell-caster or a sword-swinger, with cababilities in one or both having to be sacrified in an attempt to multi-class your way into the sort of character that you want to play. The recent publication of Ultimate Magic in the Pathfinder core line has begun to rectify this with the Magus class, although he's envisaged as being with a sword in one hand and a spell in mind. So, here is a short work jam-packed with ideas for how to make your Magus into your own idea of a warrior-mage, one who will hopefully be the subject of many a bard's song...
Material is presented as two aspects. Firstly there is a collection of new arcana, the arcane secrets that are the specialty of the Magus class. There's a wide variety, enabling all manner of enhancement to weapons including a neat one which allows you to pre-load a spell with a range of 'touch' into a weapon when preparing for the day, and then expend it at will... and use any spell, with certain limitations, each day you choose to use this arcana. Another enables the magus to use any feat for which he qualifies, but does not have, for a set period, another handy little ability.
The second part is a selection of new archetypes, building on all the new arcana. Like those presented in Ultimate Magic, an archetype must be chosen at first level, and it is an all-or-nothing package deal. There are some interesting ideas here. A Cabalist, for example, draws on inherent power rather than study to cast spells, acting more like a sorcerer who can fight than the warrior-wizard most Magus characters are. Those who value the finder side of life might prefer the Magavan, who specialises in social and divination spells and is well-suited to the role of Court Magician or diplomatic service.
If the Magus interests you, there are some interesting additional concepts to consider here. GMs will find material of use, I'm sure an NPC Magavan or two will soon be hanging around seats of power in my games...
First off, I'd like to mention that I *love* the cover image. The way the cloak merges with the shadows is extremely awesome. With that said, on to the arcana!
Arcane Critical: Upon a critical, gain a temporary arcana point that must be used within a round.
Arcane Focus: Reduce the penalties from Spell Combat as a swift action. This lasts for 10 rounds.
Critical Spell: If you get a critical with a spell when not delivering it through a weapon, you get a free whack at the enemy with your weapon.
Elemental Spell: Imbue yourself with elemental energy.
Enduring Arcana: Abilities and enhancement bonuses to your weapon last longer.
Enduring Warding: Bonuses and abilities to armor last longer.
Enruned Dagger / Great Weapon / Shield: Lets you use light / two-handed weapons and shields with spell combat, respectively. Dagger and shield let you use TWF.
Force Magic Device: Large bonus to UMD.
Greater Enduring Arcana / Greater Enduring Warding: Lasts longer than the normal versions.
Greater Enrune Dagger / Great Weapon / Shield: These last longer now, and can effectively last all day.
Harmonic Blending: Choose a spell or two from the Bard list!
Heroic Assault: Swift action Heroism that affects only the Magus.
Imbue Spell: Let a Magus use a spell slot one level higher than the level of the spell imbued in a weapon to cast it without preparing it in advance. Except you kinda are.
Invisible Assault: Oh hello there Greater Invisibility.
Jinx Blending: Same idea as Harmonic Blending, but from the Witch spell list. Hello there Divine spells...
Mounted Assault: Summons a Phantom Steed.
Piercing Strike: Bonus to penetrating SR of creatures you hit since the start of your last turn.
Protected Assault: Basically Protection from X.
Resistant Assault: Basically Resist Energy.
Split Arcana: When you use your arcana points to enhance your weapons, you can split it between two weapons.
Staff Mastery: Magus can apply any arcana that apply to spells to apply to his staff. Also gives bonuses to UMD based on feats that add to the Attack Bonus of the staff, and any feat that adds damage to a staff adds the damage to spells as well.
Versatile Combatant: Get temporary usage of a feat.
Wand Lord: Spend 1 or more points of arcana pool to increase CL of wands.
Warding: Grant bonuses / abilities to armor.
Weapon Diligence: Gain bonuses to concentration checks when with a specific weapon.
YuenglingDragon mentions the archetypes, but I must disagree about the Tovenaar. The combination of Inquisitions and Arcana powers lead to a very "Book of Nine Swords" feel for the character. It also allows for great action economy, by allowing you to do a full attack and then things like Hold Monster (from the Imprisonment inquisition) or Feeblemind (from the Oblivion inquisition). Further, they can take the powers from Cleric and/or Druid domains. At level 19, they'll have access to 7 domains or inquisitions, which allow for some very cool combinations. Ferocious Strike from the Ferocity subdomain could be very useful for this kind of character.
All in all, this offers a lot of new ways for a Magus to be played. Want to play a Magus that uses polearms? Enruned Great Weapon lets you do that. A two weapon Arcana Lord with Arcane Critical and focusing on critical hits could be a ton of fun.
Like the Magus but feel pinned by the damnable "one hand free whenever you want to do something cool" restriction? This book has solutions! By allowing you to invest your Arcana and Arcane Pool Points into three different trees, you can fight with two weapons, a 2-hander, or a shield. That's exciting just by itself.
But there's more! Lots of really awesome Arcana to let you use your Pool Points to mimic spells or get a skill bonus.
The archetypes are really interesting, too. With the slew of new Arcana, the Arcana Lord is a really attractive option. Arcana Lords sacrifice the spell casting versatility of the Magus for more Arcana and the ability to burn spells for more Pool Points.
The Cabalist shares a casting progression and spontaneous casting with the Bard and get access to a Sorcerer bloodline.
The Magavan replaces spell strike with a crazy but interesting knowledge ability. Learning via stabbing. Sounds like public schools =)
The Tovenaar is the only one I'm kind of not excited about. Instead of spellcasting this archetype gets access to Inquisitions from Ultimate Magic. I'm just not sure there are inquisitions good enough for me to possibly lose casting. But I guess if someone is adamantly opposed to casting, this is a good way to use the Magus.