Game: The Quintessential Wizard
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 23rd, May 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 42
Average Score: 6.00
The Collector Series continues with the Quintessential Wizard and if you take a peek at Mongoose’s schedule you’ll see that the next two in the series are Elf and Dwarf and it’s August when the series comes back to cover character classes with the Quintessential Monk. I’m not the only one out there to keep an eye on when the next offering from the Collector Series is due to hit the shelves, it’s an extremely well received set of books and fast becoming a d20 stalwart. The Quintessential Wizard continues in the tradition of high quality and gaming insight.
The very first of the Collector Series, the Quintessential Fighter, introduced the concept of Character Classes as mini templates which could change the mechanics of your character in small ways and provide an umbrella of a stereotype to play under while you’re still getting to grips of your character’s quirks. These character concepts are extremely useful for Wizards and provide a much needed focus for the broadly scoped character class. Among the character concepts you’ll find the pyromancers, geomancers, wind and sea mages, but you’ll also find ideas for gutter mages, fortune-tellers, entertainers, investigators and other magic using careers. I especially liked the exorcist concept. There’s no shortage of these concepts and the Quintessential Wizard provides some of the most detailed in the Collector Series to date, the summoner concept, for example, has its own table of extra bonuses.
I’ve taken to harassing books that throw in poorly thought-out and unnecessary prestige classes. If the adventure is set in the Black Pit of Puzzzah there’s no compelling need for a Puzzzah Ranger. None. The Quintessential Wizard, however, is a book that sets out to add further flavour and detail to the Wizard character class and so is entirely able to present a wide range of prestige classes without falling foul of my nit-picking wrath. The prestige classes in the book are exceptional. You’ll find more than a mere mix of 5 and 10 level classes, you’ll find prestige classes of Wizards with access to entirely new means of magic. The dreaded Spelleaters actually rip spells from rival spell casters, the Soulforgers have pages of text on their new style of magic and even rewritten some of the base character tables for spells per day and level bonuses and the Worldbreakers bypass the mutterings and hand gestures of Arcane make and speak words of power to annihilate their enemies instead. Dare I say that there are other more “mundane” prestige classes as well? I do. There are.
The Tricks of the Trade section is at its most interesting in Wizard. The chapter on creative spellcasting revisits some common low level spells and suggests some sly new uses for them. The rope trick spell is the prime example, you can use it for shelter or, say, as a part of ambush when the wizard stops maintaining the spell just as the orcs are underneath so that the previously stashed vials of acid tumble out from the pocket dimension and break open on them. There are suggestions on how to bundle spells together in a theme along with some sample lists and this is combined with observations on applying interesting visual effects to different spell casts. The notion of arcane chess is covered in the Arcane Duels and Competitions section and it’s a rather quirky but nice example of magical knowledge and tactics being put to rather subtler uses than throwing fireballs around.
I think Feats are pretty magical. Whereas I might be sceptical about some of the more spectacular fighter feats I can sit back and enjoy the more outlandish magically based feats; if a wizard can attempt to track down the location of another mage by following the obscure arcane patterns left in the aether then so be it. There’s a mix of both the likely and unlikely Feats in Quintessential Wizard. A wizard with enough practise and the Arcane Armour Proficiency feat has a much better chance of being able to cast magic while wearing heavy armour. In addition, the very heavens open up to a chorus of angels singing their praise of the author who spells “armour” correctly.
The Tools of the Trade takes a tour through the typical trappings of a wizard. Wizards can select either enchanted armoured robes or slyly designed robes with hidden pockets and the appearance of a miser’s blanket. In the chapter you’ll also find a brief study on useful equipment – like a walking stick, the ostentatious – like a mithral scrollcase, or the weird – such as the mindsharp drug for mages. Magical weapons, potions and staffs all find themselves with subsections of their own as well as one for generic magical items like the wire rimmed Goggles of Arcane Insight. An extremely cute idea is the list of wondrous items for wizards’ familiars.
Spellbooks are such an important aspect of d20 Wizards that they have a chapter all for themselves; in fact it’s a chapter on libraries and spellbooks. I have to admit that I’m not such a fan of the spellbook idea which is why I was pleased to see simple alternatives suggested. Rather than having a spellbook – why not an amulet? It can work in the same way, use a scroll to insert the spell but with the amulet you’ve a much sturdier adventuring accessory. A demonicly possessed amulet adds even more flavour to the game, it’s ideal for demonologists every where and wouldn’t it add an interesting touch to your campaign world if magic was only possible through the “assistance” of possessed gems. On the other hand you might like the spellbook idea but just wished they were a little more fancy and so you’ll probably make a lot of use of the list of enhancements for them. Put enough books together and you’ll end up with a library. There’s more than you’ll ever need on libraries in the Quintessential Wizard, rules on how to build them and on how to make the best use of them. A library is essentially an asset and a resource for any Wizard so the book adopts a rank based system that allows you to get a quick measure of them.
Most likely people would have been disappointed if there weren’t a huge slew of new spells in a book dedicated to Wizards. There 18 new spells, perhaps not a huge slew of them but that’s a few pages worth and more importantly you’ll find that they’re quality spells. They’re spells with a meat on them, the Feast of Flesh necromantic spell, for example, is a bit like ghoul touch but has a rather morbid twist when it comes to deciding what to do with the bodies of those slain by the dark power.
Although the trusty wizard’s staff had a mention in the tools of the trade chapter they’re revisited later on in the book with a chapter all of their own. The Quintessential Wizard puts forth the idea that the wizard’s staff is used as spell nexus, a special magical tool which allows for extra and improved spells. The idea is rather similar to the spell matrix from The Quintessential Rogue, similar but different – so that’s spell matrix for Rogues and spell nexus for Wizards.
There are extra feats tucked away in the Wizard Mercenaries and Apprentices. You don’t need to win over players to the ideas of having or being a wizard’s bodyguard and so there’s lots of extra power ups for them; even a whole prestige class. More space is required in the book to put forward an argument as to why a PC wizard might want an apprentice or want to be an apprentice over and above the access to more spells.
I like rules that backup gaming worlds. I happen to like the ideas of powerful wizards locking themselves away in towering libraries. Halfway through the book you’ll find the rules on libraries and at the end of the book you’ll find the weighty rules for towers. There really are pages of text and tables for wizards’ towers; I’ll summarize and say that they’re similar to a great big magical item.
I like wizards and perhaps that’s just enough to give the Quintessential Wizard the position as favourite issue for the Collector Series to date. It’s a well designed, professionally presented and cleverly written book.