From the tortured sands of the Mana Wastes, where magic is as likely to tear you apart as it is to not work at all, to the perpetually frozen northern nation of Irrisen where the winter witches rule, magic is a part of life in the Inner Sea region. Whether it is wielded by benevolent clerics to keep their allies fighting the good fight or unleashed by wizards in the form of scorching blasts of fire, magic can be the difference between life or death. Or, as in so many cases, the cause of life or death.
Inner Sea Magic explores the role of magic within this vast and varied region. Within this 64-page book, you will find:
A who’s-who of powerful and famous spellcasters from throughout the Inner Sea region
Details on four types of magical schools—arcane academies, spellcaster’s guilds, monasteries, and secret societies—along with rules for joining and studying with such organizations
Rules for several types of specialized or variant magic, including the chaotic power of primal magic, the secrets of shadowcasting, the traditions of Thassilonian sin magic, and the wonders of Varisian tattoo magic
Two new oracle mysteries (the primal-magic wielding spellscar mystery and the sinister Outer Rifts mystery)
More than a dozen new archetypes for all sorts of spellcasters, including the black-blooded oracle, the Razmiran priest, the shadowcaster wizard, the tattooed sorcerer, and the winter witch
Two new prestige classes—the cyphermage and the divine scion
Dozens of new spells, from Aroden’s spellward to zone of foul flames!
Inner Sea Magic is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be used in any fantasy game setting.
by Jesse Benner, Jason Nelson, Sean K Reynolds, Owen K.C. Stephens, and Russ Taylor
I'm a big fan of the Pathfinder game rules (core rule book, advanced player's guide, gamemaster guide, and the monster manuals) and adventure paths for their atmosphere and creativity. However a few products I bought, among others this one, don't bring this particular atmosphere that I came to expect. If you're thinking of buying this one, check first if it's really what you're after.
Inner Sea Magic takes an in-depth look at how magic is used in the Inner Sea Region of Golarion and, in turn, a bit of how that magic affects the setting. Unlike many other Campaign Setting products, Inner Sea Magic has a quite large amount of “crunch”, i.e. game mechanics information such as new rules systems, archetypes, spells, etc., instead of “fluff”, which is story and descriptive material. This makes it a product more in the style of a book like Ultimate Magic than most books in this line. However, whereas Ultimate Magic is a generic look at magic in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Inner Sea Magic looks at magic with a very Golarion-specific spin.
In general, I really like that most Campaign Setting books are fluff-heavy, as that’s the kind of thing I most enjoy reading when learning about a game world. There’s enough crunch in the generic books that, unless it’s very specific to the setting, more is not really needed in a world book. As such, I had a few reservations going into this book. Most of those reservations, however, quickly subsided. This is not just a book with a gazillion new feats and spells that the game doesn’t really need. There are full details on variant magic styles that other Campaign Setting books have only hinted at, new class archetypes that explore these styles, an overview of prominent spellcasters across the Inner Sea, and details on the most prominent magical schools and academies. They are all things that can enrich any game set in Golarion.
There are quite a few new archetypes in the book. Many of these archetypes will be far more useful than those in books like the Advanced Player’s Guide or Ultimate Magic as these ones fit seamlessly into the setting and bring with them the flavour of the setting. To use archetypes from generic sources, you either need to use very generic archetypes (which are less flavourful) or shoehorn them into a setting they don’t quite fit in. I love the tattooed sorcerer, in particular. We’ve heard about Varisian tattoo magic in previous books, but until now, it’s been represented by nothing more than a single feat that only grants a bonus spell and a boosted caster level to a specific school. Now, tattooed sorcerers gain a familiar that can transform itself into a tattoo and hide out on their bodies. They can create tattoos that are magical items or can store spells in their tattoos. There is actually a point to Varisian tattoos now.
Overall, Inner Sea Magic is a very good book that finally fleshes out a lot of things that have only been hinted at in previous products. People expecting the usual amount of “fluff” in a Pathfinder Campaign Setting book, however, may be a bit surprised by the very high amount of “crunch”. However, it’s mostly useful and flavourful crunch that enhances and expands the setting. It will be an indispensable book for most games set in Golarion.
I would say that is hard to have problems with the flavour of Paizo books and this one is very pleasant to read and useful in its informations about the game world.
I will follow Purplefixer example and do a section by section comment.
1: Magic of the Inner Sea: background material. A descriptive essay on some of the different styles of magic use in Golarion. Good section. 5/5
2. Variant magic:
False divine magic - Awesome. Great RP wise and for NPC, interesting for PC.
Fleshwarping - Good. Not my kind of stuff, but still good for NPC and PC alike.
Primal magic - Good. Not something that you should encounter every other day, but great to flesh out some adventure and character.
Riffle scroll - Nice. Underpowered for most PC, but very colourful. And a way to apply the silent metamagic feat to scrolls.
Shadowcasting - not the set of feats for you if you taking a feat that isn't the strongest in a book pain you, but more than decent for game use and very flavourful.
Tatto magic: Inscribe magical tatto - a feat that give you 11 item slots ..... Sure the exemplified tattos aren't the end of the world but it is a good item construction feat. And one I would allow people to use with the Master Artisan feat.
Thassilonian magic: A "second level" of specialization were you renounce to all uses of two specific schools of magic in exchange to the possibility to memorize twice the same spell in your specialization spell slot. More a NPC thing than a PC thing (especially as you need to make the choice at level 1, so you can't "learn" Thassilonian magic with an existing character and rarely a new character would have the chance to know it), but interesting nonetheless.
3: Magic schools: I have some doubt on one of the Guild benefits (probably a piece of text that should have been cut away slipped in) but nice. Usable factions rules and a good way to tie in characters with the game world. 4/5
4: Spellcasters of the Inner Sea: I disagree with Purplefixer. He examine the archetypes and prestige classes simply as power options for PC and so he dismiss them if they aren't more powerful than other options. I am more interested in the RP aspect of the classes and how they will interact with the world of Golarion.
- 2 new Oracle mysteries. Mostly geared for NPC, very flavourful.
- 19 archetypes. Most of them interesting and useful.
I will examine in particular the Tattoed Sorcerer archetype: a) it is a sorcerer archetype. You must compare what it do with other sorcerer options. b) familiar tatto: you get a familiar with a small added bonus as your first level ability. Slightly better than taking the arcane bloodline familiar. Varisian tatto. It substitute your eschew material feat with the capacity to cast spells in 1 school of magic at +1 CL. Neat. Bloodline tattoo. No cost for this ability and your bloodline spells are cast a +1 CL. Neat again. Create spell tatto. The level 7 bloodline feat is replaced with the ability to create 1 tatto that work like a automatically silent scroll at no cost. He can't have more than one "scroll" in existence at the same time. YMMV but it is power is on par with several feats. Enhanced Varisian tatto. One of the spells that is enhanced by your varisian tatto become usable once/day as a spell like ability. that replace your level 9 bloodline power. At a later level you can change the selected spell. For me having one specific spell of up to level 9 as a spell like ability hardly seem a weak ability.
Cypermage: essentially a "master of scrolls" prestige class. I see plenty of way to use his powers.
Divine scion: my less preferred option in this section of the book. probably powerful but not my stuff.
5: Spells: 39 spells. Some of them are earth shattering but none seem grossly unbalanced and generally they do very well their role of being setting specific spells. 5/5
General art and layout: excellent. 5/5
General vote 4.5/5, as there isn't the option for 4.5 stars, 5 stars.
Much like the inner sea world guide, Paizo has delivered us some fantastic insights to the world of Golarion, and some incontrovertible proof as to why the bad guys never, ever win.
Red Mantis Assassins and Shadowcasters seem to have something in common after all... they both have THE WORST POSSIBLE OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO MAN! Let me break the book down for you section by section...
1: Magic of the Inner Sea: This section contains some wonderful descriptive text about the areas of the inner sea, how magic is used in each of them, and what magical features would attract anyone's attention. It also has level and alignment breakdowns for 50 of the worlds most famous spellcasters, including Razmir, Nex, the Runelords, and Baba Yaga. Good section. 5/5
2. Variant Magic: All about what magic is, False Divine Magic, Fleshwarping, Primal Magic, Riffle Scrolls, Shadow Casting, Tattoo Magic, and Thassilonian Sin Magic Specialization.
The first four sections are wonderful, flavorful, mechanically interesting, and I would certainly include them in my game. Then we come to the pile of mechanical trash that explains why the minions of Zon Kuthon can't magic their way out of a paper bag, and why they mostly wiggle their fingers ineffectually and fail to get anything done.
Shadow magic consists of four feats and an archetype which allows the casting of 'shadow magic'. The first feat allows an illusion to be ended prematurely to do poor damage. The second is a metamagic feat that requires the other two metamagic feats in this chapter, and entangles creatures with spells of the darkness descriptor for one level. The third is the base metamagic feat for the set, which gives a +1 save dc in the dark, but necessitates a concentration check to cast in the light for one spell level. The last feat is the middle metamagic which makes a spell into a darkness spell, causing any creature to shed 10' of darkness in the spells effect as long as it is an ongoing effect... for two spell levels. And it's generally pointless.
Tattoo Magic has a LOT of stuff which does NOTHING. For a new feat, you can add magical tatoos which... do... pretty much nothing at all. A one per day use no-slot metamagic still/silent rod, a resevoir tatoo which, as far as I can tell, ACTUALLY DOES NOTHING AT ALL, and a spell tatoo, which is an incredibly painful and expensive way of scribing a scroll for no benefit other than having a scroll at 4x the normal cost look pretty on your skin. To compound this, they add the Tattooed Sorcerer archetype, of which Seoni is apparently a member, which does... basically nothing. You have a familiar who turns into a tattoo, and can add 1 caster level to a scribed spell tattoo? Which as we already noted, could have been done at HALF that cost without the feat by buying a scroll from someone else.
Thassilonian Magic specialization takes your choices away from which spell schools are your opposition, and basically moves back to 3.5 specialization, where you cannot so much as spell-complete magic items from those schools, but you get two of the same spell in that specialty slot, rather than one spell for your specialty school. Neatish. Some people might actually try that.
All in all? 2.5/5
3: Magic Schools: Watered down factions, but otherwise very neat flavor and mechanics for membership in schools. Just make sure your GM uses the auto-level rule from the sidebar, or you waste your time and money trying to graduate during downtime while you out-level the school in a scant few weeks of adventuring.
4: Spellcasters of the Inner Sea: Some helpful examinations and explorations of where the APG and UM archetypes are common, and a double-handful of new archetypes, some of which are neat, some of which are trash. This is arguably the most important part of the book, where all the player customization comes into play, and half of it is useable only for die-hard flavor enthusiasts, in much the same way as the Vow of Poverty Monk. I can say this for certain: "I'm looking forward to trashing an enemy Shadowcaster and mocking his choice of archetype in play..."
There's also the Cyphermage, which is completely pointless, with worthless special mechanics which will virtually never be useful between levels 6 and 12, and the Divine Scion, who is a worth-while prestige class trading domain abilities or paladin advancement for diety favored weapon specialization, dire opposition against a single alignment component (EVIL IS BAD! or END ALL CHAOS!) and auto-self-healing and skill buffs for domain-appropriate skills.
This section has good with the bad, for 3/5.
5: Spells: 39 spells over 12 pages, ranging from good to bad, depending on how creative you are in using them. Some gems include a mortal kombat-esque bladed dash, a concentration-duration wall that explodes when destroyed, the ability to transform into a genie, an annoying defensive/debuffing enchantment spell to use on your threatening enemies, some undead summoning, and the ability to melt your wand into the weapon you're wielding! Magus are going to have a field day with that last one... 4/5
The art and layout are Pathfinder standard, which is to say: Excellent. A few editing mistakes, but nothing they can't clear up on a second run through, and really minor stuff unless they got some mechanical words wrong. 5/5